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PO Box 2454
West Brattleboro, Vermont 05303
Walking Woman with the Tambourine
She beats a Tibetan drum for the road kills, animals litter
the roads as bait, a spiraling cycle of death
The drum she holds up hums in her skeletal frame
She marches against squat nuclear towers, alien shapes
leak poison into the river
She breaks into cryogenic sleep of ordinary folks
lulled unconscious before the TV
Wake up! Wake up! she calls through the windows.
Costumed revelers circle the square
Central among them is the cadre of drummers, women drummers
beating Brazilian rhythms,
The woman with the tambourine glides over the pavement,
her hips sway, we are moved to follow
the belly-dancing sisters jangle bracelets, anklets, tinkling coins.
Diminutive marcher with a Buddhist drum
circles the prison where a man is to die
She circles slowly, the people gather—a thousand
two thousand—we are moved to follow
Through the night the entire town parades—saying no,
saying no—the man to die looks out the window
At dawn the lights flicker off and on.
Here is Sampano! sings the woman. Sampano is here!
Giulietta Masina with her tambourine
calls the townspeople down to the circus
She breaks into dance, the acrobats do back flips
the goat climbs up an empty ladder
tiny mirrors on the tent flap blaze in the sun.
She walks through cities and civilizations
from Paleolithic through the Neolithic Age
through secret entries in the heart of the market,
down the well and out the hidden river.
She is in plain view, arriving from somewhere
we did not catch. What is your name?
She carries her mother folded onto her chest
like a skinny package.
The woman walks behind friends she knows
and friends she doesn’t
The cemetery holds the usual suspects
People have a lot to say, the band kicks in—
brass instruments and conga drums—
The woman with the tambourine unties her dead
mother and drops her down
As soon as the bones hit the ground her mother
springs up, alive alive alive again.
Willow, NY, November 2009
"Walking Woman with the Tambourine" by Janine Pommy Vega © copyright 2015 by Bob and Susan Arnold