I’ve always lived from between my legs,
a bad girl at the altar rail, apologizing
to God for touching myself, for my new blood
spreading stains. I say to God, Forgive me,
I’m dirty, but feel the pulse there, the open
socket I could plug into. There was so much
death around me, the dead animals we ate,
the bulldozed farmland filled with new houses,
trees killed for walls-- those maggots in the deep
garbage pit behind the garage I had to empty
the scraps into each night, stepping hard on
the heavy iron lever to open it. So much death
that surge had to push against, my heavy thighs
and new breasts, sad end of innocence.
And then there was Jesus Himself
skewered on the cross before me, dripping
dead with blood, groin wrapped in white linen,
that centerpiece even on Him secret--I thought
that was something to stay alive with.
They told us He died for our sins and here I was,
sinning and bleeding. But I wanted life so I played
the edge, hell on one side, the pulse on the other.
I thought the odds were with me. Years later I knew
better but back then the men, the women who smelled
my need found me, and I gave what I had with them
a name: happiness.
SAINT MARIA GORETTI , l890-l902
Maria Goretti was canonized as a “martyr of purity”
by the Catholic church in 1950.
Our bodies were ripe, but you, Maria,
showed us how to squeeze our juices out,
dehydrate. That nasty peasant wrestled
you to the ground with knives and blood
but you stayed pure for Him. A girl
of twelve, you died rather than break.
The nuns told us about you every day,
how you saved yourself for the real
bridegroom, what we should do when
those sweaty lusting boys longed
for our treasures. We have you to thank
for the most important lesson of our school days:
strangle the urges our bodies birth
as we grow to women. You did, and died
in the kitchen of that house in the Pontine marshes.
So, when men wanted us, we remembered
you as we spread our legs. We learned
to cut our cunts from minds and hearts,
counted or hummed, evaporated.
We pretended those men were your killer
Alessandro, sliced off their love along
with their cocks.
When the babies came we were relieved.
A mother can’t be a whore. Wiping noses,
stuffing in the carrots, gave our hearts
their final out.
Sharon Charde, a psychotherapist since 1980 in Lakeville, Ct, has won Honorable Mention in contests sponsored by Maryland Poetry Review, the Hannah Kahn Poetry Foundation, and the Al Savard Poetry Contest [CT Poetry Society]. She was a finalist in the 2001 Comstock Review as well as the 2004 Comstock Review contest, and the 2003 Hill-Stead Museum’s Sunken Garden contest and has been nominated for six Pushcarts. She won third prize in a 2003 contest sponsored by the Ct. Poetry Society and is published in the Ct. River Review, Calyx, The Homestead Review, Poeticas, Voices In Italian America, Feminist Studies Quarterly, Crosscurrents and The White Pelican Review, as well as several anthologies,.
Charde has edited an anthology of poetry, I Am Not A Juvenile Delinquent, which won the 2005 PASS (Prevention For A Safer Society) award in literature by TheNational Council On Crime And Delinquency in Oakland, CA. Her chapbook, Bad Girl At The Altar Rail, won first prize in the Flume Press (California State University) competition and was published in the fall of 2005. A second chapbook, Four Trees Down From Ponte Sisto, won the Dallas Community Poets Contest in 2006 and was published in December.
In 2005 she was presented with the first Inge Morath Award, given by the Trinity Arts Series,The University of Connecticut Torrington Campus, the Litchfield County Writer’s Project and Zeeland Productions for her creativity and the significant imapct she has had on social development in the arts. In April of 2007 she will receive the “Making A Difference For Women Award” from the Soroptimist organization in Connecticut for her work with the young women of Touchstone. She had led women’s wrting groups and retreats in Lakeville CT and Block Island, RI since 1990, and has worked for eight years as a volunteer at Touchstone, a residential treatment center for adjudicated teenaged girls in Litchfield, CT.