December 12 , 2010



Anticipation is a book of poetry which, while touching on Marguerite Watkins’ upbringing in India, for the most part is inspired by her life as an adult in America and by her mother’s family stories. Her first book of poetry, Patterns in Henna, contained poems about her memories as the daughter of missionary parents in India and she has also written a memoir, Two Taproots, Growing Up in the Forties in India and America. The poems in this book deal with the next part of her life.
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The author has arranged her poetry into five sections. Section I deals with attitudes towards possessions – things that are more than things. II is about family, especially her mother’s New England relatives since Patterns in Henna has poems inspired by her father’s life. In III we hear other voices and see other places, including the author’s impressions when traveling. IV describes the circle of the Virginia seasons and includes several poems about hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The poetry in V is more contemplative. The author is older now, more mellow, and comes full circle in her thoughts about life.

Instead of describing them the author has chosen to share a sample poem from each of the five sections.

Section I

The Owl in the Christmas Tree

As I crept down the stairs
to plug in the Christmas lights
before the children came down,
two wide topaz eyes stared out
from the tip of the cedar,
a small owl barred brown and white
with talons gripping the star.

I woke the children,” Look,”
I breathed, “.look,
he must have come down the chimney.
See the flakes of soot on the hearth.”
We opened the door
and nudged him with a rake
until reluctantly he flew into an oak.

These are the things you live for –
not designer-wrapped gifts,
the year-end bonus, the red velvet dress,
but a moment of wonder,
of surfeit –
rose-breasted grosbeaks eating holly berries,
wind rich with the spice of wild azaleas,
full moon through river mist –
the owl in the Christmas tree.

Section II
Aisle Eight, Cat Food

My father stands by the cat food display
each Monday.
Carefully dressed in suit and tie,
he brightens when shoppers stop their carts,
gravely gives tips to serious ones
who spend a long time reading labels,
pondering choices,
sardine or shrimp, whitefish or chicken,
flaked or smothered in gravy,
a difficult choice, the menu
for a true patrician.

I had a cat, he shyly offers, Premi;
it means beloved one.
He slept at the foot of my bed,
and sat on the table to drink the milk
out of my cereal bowl.
No cats at the retirement home, the lady said,
but Premi died beforehand.
He was old too, you know,
and lame. Premi was a great hunter in his prime,
stalking a squirrel or chipmunk like a cheetah.
He was that fast!
His favorites were the Nine Lives tuna
and Whiskas chicken in sauce.

Three aisles over, Mother
selects Campbell's tomato soup for his lunch,
cornmeal muffins, sliced Velveeta, applesauce.
Where's the old gentleman,
the stock boy asks.

He'll be waiting in pet food, aisle eight,
hoping for someone to come by
who likes to talk about cats.

Section III


Giraffe, you regard existence
through your fringed Cleopatra eyes.
With Modigliani neck neither stretched nor strained,
your velvet lips select
new growth at the top of an acacia tree,
leaf buds tight and tender as fiddle-heads,
a connoisseur, the gourmand
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