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And the Girls Worried Terribly

by Dot Devota



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“Why did the girls worry terribly? The title was found in Oliver Statler’s book, The Black Ship Scroll. This has been an important book to my partner, Brandon Shimoda. A caption beneath a sketch of two women in kimonos reads: ‘The foreigners said they wanted to take pictures of beautiful Japanese ladies, so the government officials ordered that some of the singing girls be chosen as subjects. Later a rumor spread that anyone who was photographed would die within three years, and the girls worried terribly.’ There was a deep-rooted superstition about having one’s portrait made: the soul might leave to take up residence in the ‘new self,’ causing the fatal ‘shadow-sickness.’

I got married in spring 2009 with Caitie Moore. We were two brides marrying ourselves to poetry. This took place on a homestead in the Bitterroot Mountains. We changed into our dresses in a shed. My mother showed up and sat in the front row. We walked down the aisle. The union was lawless. We read poems to confused guests. We cut into white cake. My bride’s family thought I was her lover. Brandon wore the tie I made from my grandmother’s crochet. Afterwards, Brandon, Caitie and I moved to Seattle. My skin caught fever from the damp. I turned allergic to the sun. Each day it visited from outer space. A bride on her honeymoon! In shadow, I returned to normal. Having succumbed to something of myself. A vessel for infestations. Poetry mounted me each night, tireless. I wanted to sleep, instead waking up every 3 minutes to scribble a couple lines, then fall backwards into my pillow. Only to be woken up again. A book was written, Blackwriting, against my will. Immediately afterwards, I began writing a long poem about that day in the Bitterroot Mountains…

Then Brandon and I moved to Maine and lived in the woods beside a lake. The Silence That Endures is a Scene from My Massacres was written for my brother. I wanted him to know what I knew of the past. I sensed he would suffer. Family secrets. I heard the lake freezing, and I stayed near until it thawed out again. Crying into the greenery. We left once more…Taiwan’s southern port city on the China Sea, Japan after the Tsunami, our family’s defunct farm in Missouri where everything that grows grows wild, and Arizona. Many were family sites. Altars. Places compiling short breaths inside me. With each, I skimmed off the topmost layer. It Is Love the I Don’t Write is a series of dry nightly baths. Blowing sweetly on anything vibrating with red strings. I wake, remembering the parts where I felt most willing. Simultaneously, anger. Weapons I left sticking out of the things provoking me. All the while I could only pretend to be a part of something more important. A discussion. News reports. Wars and diaspora. Whatever inundated me I became surrogate to. Voices brought to memory nothing. Taking up the most space. They also needed relief…”

About the Author

The poet Dot Devota is from a family of ranchers and rodeo stars. She is the author of The Eternal Wall (Cannibal Books; Canadian edition from BookThug), MW: A Midwest Field Guide (Editions19\), and And The Girls Worried Terribly (Noemi Press). She currently writes about the Midwest and travels full time.

And the Girls Worried Terribly