Geography of My Bones
Geography of My Bones:
the poetry of Olivia Diamond
Geography of My Bones comprises Olivia Diamond’s collected poems over more than three decades. Divided into six sections: Origins, Midwest, West and Beyond, Middle East and Elsewhere, East of Eden, and Innerscape, her poetry, like her life, begins in the very center of America, and makes its way into a much larger world. She has the range to bind her words in classical poetic form and proves herself a master.
The geography of her poetry extends from the domestic to the deeply spiritual. She writes with a gently humorous appreciation of the vagaries of day-to-day life, from holding hands in a movie theater, to an imagined conversation between Marilyn Monroe and Dame Edith Sitwell, to roasting coffee in Saudi Arabia.
Her poetical journey covers growing up in America’s heartland to living in the Middle East. She expresses her experiences in a variety of styles to suit her vision. The inner and outer scenery she explores in her poems evokes both laughter and pain; while her pungent, yet tasty appraisal of humanity summon all five senses to participate in the celebration.
Sample these two poems from the collection:
Walking the steel rail I place
one foot forward like an aerialist.
the rail gleams; I flail my arms,
wobble and sway, slap hands to hips.
Erect again I control the line.
Sun glitters in my eye, I teeter
and fall toward the wooden ties.
I’m a sham, a fallen rag doll,
boneless, with nylons in my head.
Ground-tied, I’ve not conquered air
or space about me—gravity-prone.
Failing the rails I’ll walk ties
and promise not to touch gravel.
I study perspective down the line
as rails meet trees at bend point.
Walking the line, perspective
I learn is the only point worth
studying in art or life these days
where there is so little aligned;
to be a bit askew the real thing.
The ballad of the railroad’s dead;
old railroaders have jumped track,
Casey’s gone around his last bend,
John Henry’s done hammered his last,
no one’s in the kitchen with Dinah.
I’m strumming lines on perspective,
but John Henry hammering spikes had
perspective like I’ve never had it
striding a steel rail in mid-May
in the middle of the Illinois Central.
Life is a balancing act after all
I’ve failed more than once before.
I’ve never had muscle or poise
to tie tracks together parallel.
Walking west this May afternoon
the sun of thirty-eight Springs
in my eyes, I lose perspective
along this splintered roadbed
where no lone whistle blows.
For the Courageous Wives of Riyadh
Summarily chauffeurs dismissed
ladies in black gauze veils
slid behind wheels, angled
onto busy Riyadh streets
a motorcade of forty wives.
Ali Babas may call them thieves
they only reclaim stolen rights
driven to drive not a joy ride
but a strike too for husbands
afraid to be more than nabobs
who drive mothers, sisters,
aunts, daughters everywhere
when they could be napping
sipping cardamom coffee
in shade of the date palm
maybe even building schools
performing brain surgery
while forty wives shopped.