HOT FLASHES–an “old” poem

~response to a young poet 
who thought the subject “too pedestrian” for poetry

“Hotflashes” are not pedestrian–not
dull colorless drab humdrum lackluster stodgy uninspired
“lacking in liveliness, charm, or surprise”
but rather pointed, chromatic, vivid, symphonic, flavorful, fresh, animating.
What better way to describe the quality of heat flaring out from core to face
like the melted innards of Earth vented from volcano,
like wildfire scorching shabby unkempt forest,
like blowtorch, blastfurnace, bunsen burner under ore-filled crucible,
melting out iron, silver–who knows?–even gold,
like hot air roaring, filling the bright bag of a balloon drifting slow
above orchards, over fields of ripened corn.

Certainly they are not lacking in liveliness?
Isn’t it fun to watch us frantically fanning,
opening our collars, rolling up sleeves,
peeling off sweaters like aged strippers gone mad?
Our bedmates awake amazed as we flap the sheets,
throw quilts on the floor, frighten the cats.
We leap up to open windows, let in the blowing snow.
And surely no cosmetic can equal the charming girlish flush
a hotflash paints across a tired face?

Or is there anything but birth or love or death
that can surprise us more?
What is happening? we cry.
We’re barely accustomed to fertility,
and now it’s gone with the scirocco.
It took us so long to grow up, and now, in a flash (or two),
behind our mirrors we see not our mothers’ but our grandmothers’ faces
gaping in wonder at the astonished old women staring back
with eyes that are strangely, still, our very own.

Dec. 11, 2000

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