Castings (1984)

-She is certainly one of the few original voices among young American poets. She takes big risks, and her poetry penetrates straight to the marrow of the bone.
Midwest Quarterly

-Historical accuracy blends easily with lyrical invention … Haskins unavoidably enters the lives of those she considers … stunning realism.
Southern Poetry Review

-Elegant, thoughtful, sophisticated poems.
Beloit Poetry Journal

Castings by Lola Haskins

Castings was published by Countryman Press (Woodstock, VT) in 1984. It was re-issued by Betony Press (P.O. Box 18, LaCrosse FL 32658). The poems are a series of monologues in women’s voices, most particularly three women who lived in nineteenth century Florida.

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This, and the following poem, introduce the theme of the book; they begin the first section which is rendered in a scatter of voices.

In each of my fingers is another woman.
The hairs of my head
belonged to someone else.
Their ends are split with their long history.
Sometimes my feet carry me
where Jane wanted to go, where Ann
dreamed in her tower.
I am Ellen out of her century.
The way girls bare their legs
shames my thee-saying heart.
When I speak, I hear harmonies
I do not understand.
But other ladies flow in me like blood.
Their other lives swell
the veins on the backs of my hands.
Their stories scatter like black bees
from my mouth, and return
to lie with me through the dangerous night.

*******

If you stroke my back, it is Ann you touch,
who never felt the fingers of her king so gently,
but opens now her body against greasy bones
and lying voices at chapel.
She has come far, who used to put on
her morning petticoats atremble, in hopes
no call would come to his canopied bed
where, like a eunuch, she performed for him
acts she sang against in the dark.
And if we love each other well,
it will be her heart’s red beating you feel
against your chest, her heart
from her body which was taken away
but now returns. But if I tell you no
you must understand
that the damp and the rats and the licey hay
on which I sleep are more than I can bear.
I will not be long. Wait for me.

These poems are in the voice of Jane, who lived near the present site of Palatka, Florida during the Civil War. Her story is told through letters she wrote to her husband Winston, who went away to war, leaving her home with four children, and pregnant with a fifth.

Winston, you were wrong to dance in such a place.
Since the news came to my ears,
I have pictured you countless times,
a cavorting great bear, with her rouged
hand in yours, and she flinging up
her skirts. And that Belle standing by
the while, her fat arms folded. And then,
slurring, you turn your pockets inside out
and hand your pay to Belle’s red smile
This is a reproof I do not deserve.
You may say I was not there.
You may claim that it was otherwise.
But I will tell you this:
I will withhold my bed from you,
and should you approach me there,
I will wake the children that they may see
what kind of creature they call
Father. I am sending this by Alan
He says you go to battle soon

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