A Poetry Sporadical of Repeating Forms

Eine Kleine Kammermusik In Language (1922), linguist Otto Jespersen describes a reading experiment
for speed and comprehension in which women overwhelmingly outperformed men.
This proves, he says, that women’s minds have “vacant chambers” in which they
promptly accommodate new information, whereas men’s minds are already
full of weighty thoughts which slow down such acquisition.

by Mary Cresswell

Yes, I’ve heard about the vacant chambers of my mind.
Are you here because you hope to fill the vacant chambers of my mind?

Perhaps it’s love that brings us here tonight. Destiny, perhaps,
not just a cultivated chance to fill and limber up my mind.

I’ve spoken long with Professor Freud. He knows of course the most
efficient way those pesky little chambers should be mined.

But nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. I find it handy, though,
when I wish to riddle through the embers of my mind.

Absent and alone, I read—I write—I tap my foot and listen
as sonatas and fugues still the quaking tremors of my mind.

Each dawn a raven returns from the trackless deeps
with a feather to thrill the vacant chambers of my mind.

Or should it be you alone, dear sir, you and only you to enter
and fill my vacant chambers? Do you think I’ll never mind?

I trill and chortle from a vacuum—I sing from unseen branches—
call it what you will, dear chap, and keep your vacant chambers.

My space is mine.


Mary Cresswell is from Los Angeles and lives on the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand. Her third book, Trace Fossils, was published in early 2011 (Steele Roberts, Wellington), and some of her work is included in Best of Best ofNew Zealand Poetry (Victoria University Press, 2011). More detail here.


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