Ars Poetica

Associate Professor Elizabeth A.I. Powell shares a poem on purity and control

My first real speech rose scented

                off of a cake of soap,

molecule congealing in my salivary gland

          that held the mellifluous

obscenity I spoke, the words my mother found

          horrid, disrespectful, utterances I loved

                       and let loose, becoming bubbles

          floating out my mouth

in punishment, the lather bubbling up

          my nasty sentiments:

                       how I loved the world so hard I hated it.

Things either clean or dirty,

           smelled lovely or nasty,

my mother tried to make me say it nicely. I couldn’t.

           The lavender tallow, glycerin atoms ascended

from my lips into silencing

           my words to God,

                               which then smelled of Yardley’s,

           Lavandula Angustifolia, disappearing until now.

I try to make it pretty. She never said

                  cleanliness was next to Godliness,

           she didn’t believe that. She just liked the scent

of lavender and submission,

           hated the words “fuck” and “suck” and “no”.

The molecule of soap a measure that held the grease in my mouth

           called bad words. To make what I felt evaporate

into the bourgeoisie submission of my stink

           into the parfum and titanium oxide

                   sanitary normalcy

of control.