Two Poems

by Gail C. DiMaggio

The Defiance of Girls

After Alice Neel, Isabetta

She’s a naked imp, hands on hips,
black hair crackling with static, cleft chin tilted.
She’s calculating a break out. She may say fuck.

or kick the glass out of the French door. I did that once.
Tore the dress from its hanger, stamped my new shoes
into fresh tar and would not cry, would not cry

when my mother hit me with a stick.
Isabetta stares straight into the eyes of the artist,
who is her mother. Who believes

she can make this child again. And over.
Capture that springing hair, the long throat. The hand
like a skylark’s claw. I told my girl not to cut her hair,

and she chopped it off in handfuls. Someday
Isabetta will dance for her father a made-up dance,
try a little coke for a lover. The men

are waiting in some other room. But in this north light,
she faces her mother, who knows things about her—
some untrue, the rest already changing. I’ve walked

a long beach in deep fog, my hands filled
with left-behind scraps. Girl shrapnel. I hadn’t foreseen
her genius for damage.  Or where the world would break us.

October Trespass

I slide between warning signs onto the unfinished bridge,
look down to the bank where a guy in a red jacket

is showing his daughter how to hold
a fishing rod, pull it back and cast. Her hands

are swamped in his, and when the line flies back
and floats to a landing, I can hear their laughter.

In the news this Sunday morning—Aleppo.
And a Manhattan woman who, believing

in the elevator, stepped forward
and lost her daughter to gravity. She was

innocent, that mother. I wish I could tell her so—
but I’m a stranger two states away,

on my way into a pine forest
spiked with yellow sycamore. I never

prayed for this distance, never asked
the great funnel of the sky—

which I do not believe for a moment is an ear, listening—
to keep me from the edge

of the elevator shaft, the bomb crater. What
is prayer but a whisper

in the mind stream—old
habit, mumbo jumbo? What my mother said.

The good father spots me, considers
my trespass without

much interest, kneels
to zip his daughter’s jacket.

From this high perch, some suffering behind me,
no one left to call me in the night,

I will pray into the emptiness
for the girl fishing. For the fish

on its way to her hook. For good fathers,
grieving mothers, one child falling, another

asleep near the bombed-out wall. Prayers
like sycamore on the rim of November,

flares in the spiny dark.
Photo credit

About Gail C. DiMaggio

Gail C. DiMaggio watched her husband play jazz in a world where no artist ever gives up a day gig. She has refused to become discouraged. Her work has appeared recently in Salamander, Slipstream, Tishman Review, ELJ, White Stag, Blue Lyra Review, and Adanna’s Woman and Art Anthology.

Gail C. DiMaggio

Gail C. DiMaggio is online at