Amaranth Pavis has been published in Long Shot, Confrontation, Left Curve, The New York Quarterly and many other journals. Amaranth worked in various North Jersey industries before the great exodus of industry from the area. From 1978 she worked in an oil refinery as a pipefitter for fourteen years, and when laid off she entered the NYC Dept. of Education as a special education teacher for twelve years. She completed a Masters in English, Creative Writing, at New York University, and a Masters in Special Education at Hunter College, a job requirement. She taught English as an adjunct in area colleges for many years. She is working on a poetry/prose manuscript chronicling her daughter’s traumatic brain injury and rehabilitation struggle. She has four children.
AMERICAN HISTORY LESSON II
…and He gives to both North and South this terrible war,
as the woe due to those by whom the offence came…
— Lincoln, 2nd Inaugural Address
The man insisted he would open my eyes –
the Civil War was not about freeing the slaves,
it was about money – simply the act of Northern
Capital to gut the power of the South.
The man is a history professor, a progressive,
one of our old neighbors, a father-friend,
and the father of my best friend.
I’d told him – even if all he said were true,
he blotted out one truth with another
and I talked about the abolitionists, the underground
John Brown’s body,
but I thought he cared. He does not care.
He corners me in the ocean and grabs my ass
I am fourteen (and menstruating, of all the bad luck).
I have a big bright ocean at my back and he is guarding
the shore line – up to his chin – so I can’t pass.
He wants a version where morals mean nothing,
the mindless man in the sea, hands like ugly anemones,
bald crown, pot bellied, white feet in the sand.
And where is the father?
He doesn’t know anything
and all his sins will be passed on
like white lumpy dough, the pig.
I swim to the right and back – over left and back,
I am a good swimmer. He will get tired.
Brez cursed the fucking flange
the fucking gun, the fucking cup
the fucking nut, the fucking hose …
I looked at Brez, straddling the exchanger
across from me. “Brez, I said,
“all this fucking is distracting.”
There is hardly a thing
in the yard not male or female
there are cock valves
and ball valves.
There are butt welds
couplings, unions, nipples
root pass, dingleberries
the magic puddle at the end of the rod
and of course the unbearable arc,
sizes as small as a cunt hair
weather as cold as a witch’s tit
ballbusters, white eels
lots of boxes including my own,
faces, collars, elbows, snatch blocks.
Towers have skirts,
there is a virgin naphtha splitter.
There are studs that weigh in
at 20 Ibs with nuts two inches across
and more human sized ones –
when nuts get dropped
there are always at least two more.
Lubrication is very important here
for there is a lot of screwing –
we insist on symmetry – two holes up –
there are packing glands …
in the yard is everything except cum
that is under the desks up in the office.
Our bodies are the templates
of the mechanical – after the early exuberance
the mechanic’s body is kept
in working order
by the feedback that oils the joints.
This world has been completely appropriated:
the secrets of the gives in steel –
there is not a valve that does not leak –
are bare as the bare need.
LOON CENTER TRAIL
The lake surface has a soft undulation
of old snow still on the ice
except where the western sun
has melted the shoreline
out to twenty or thirty feet or so
and where dark lines show fractures
in the leftover winter.
No loons yet, but a pair of mallards
nervous as cats fly up
at my step along the trail.
The young evergreens
catch all the sun of early spring,
their delicate needles prisms of light—
in the grey and silent wood.
The wood’s hush takes my long breath,
I had a cabin here once
in a clearing—I have a memory
I cannot place. As age takes me
I remember it more and more
in the time of exhausted winter.
Moving by the power of these hands
for my own pleasure
as much as the best of them
inside a tower made for oil.
I am not someone they talk to
I am a woman passing
out at the top
I am the animal of oil.
The trays lie marked in piles
they gutted the tower.
My body moving inside of its clothes soundly
I go in at the bottom, come
to my companion above. My companion is mine only
the bolts holding the trays connect me
where the violence ripped their caps off,
over the downcomers
where the oil boiled and they took:
man to man – my absorption is temporary –
play the game, keeping my sex
not a man. I am not from another country
as much as any man fit the trays in
and pull them up by the pulley
but they make room,
they teach me how to be number one –
to protect oneself –
when in trouble.
I wear a mask,
I inhabit this space
and I blow black snot at the end of the day,
a part of the craft
everyday; I climb up and down in the dark
owned by clean hands which do not know
and do not want to know
its various layers
“Loon Center Trail” was published in Riverwind, Vol 28
“The Yard” was published in LONG SHOT Vol 19
“The Tower” was published in PHOEBE, Vol 16
“American History Lesson II” was published in New York Quarterly, #66