Carol was a music major at Smith, class of ’59. While at Smith, she composed a ballet theatre piece, The Angel of Hadley, directed by Martha Myers. It was produced on WGBH-TV in 1960. She has also composed theatre pieces for Williamstown Summer Theatre and for Yale Drama School, and later for UC Berkeley Theatre. Her literary compositions, mostly poetry, were published first in The Greycourt Review, now defunct. She taught music history and performance at UC Berkeley from 1976-1990, then switched to teaching Comparative Lit at Penn State from 1997 to date. She is the volunteer festival director for the Junior Baroque Music Festival in State College, PA.

 

 

  Carol Rogers Motta '59


Octaves rare and beautiful:
For a deaf daughter

This was our old world
poised at mid-staircase, armless,
of fragments stolen then pieced
together on monumental base, but
time thwarts the flight of phrase.
Mouths once pouted percussives,
sibilants were lifted at mid-arch and
tip of tongue frapped upper teeth.
Our language was visual.

Words without sound fly
like swallows in the evening air,
dipping after gnats, aligning wing
to wing, beaks at the ready, so our
recognition of a formed idea was
flung across the room
inaudible and invisible
except to us.

You danced the words even though
you could not discriminate
choo-choo from shoe-shoe.
We laughed at the trouble we got into.
Noise swirled around us in busy-ness,
meaninglessness – our impossible word –
me because of a lisp, you because God had
turned the knob to zero.

You forgave at first the unforgiveable
transfer of a mother’s love.
A new daughter, new husband
appeared to fill the fat present
and devour our relationship
in fiery gulps. The noise returned.
We cannot understand each other
now in exile.

Then you, my winged victory,
my Samothracian delight that plowed
the sea and vowed to gain other shores,
you danced the channels stretched between
islands of mysterious rituals,
of hasty marriages, of secrets
not to be revealed and swallowed
in blank stares.

The harp that traps our thoughts
within its cradle sounds no more.
Your shaped words transmit
like oily bubbles, abrading, sliding off
their hollow messages, sea foam
discarded on pacific shores,
your dance has fallen to the ground
in small feathery jerks.

Island dancer, retrace the pattern.
Break again the glass that stands
between us, the awful choices that
distance incurs. The melody you danced,
try again. Let me see you fly once more
fingertips extended, neck poised,
but you cannot read my lips.
So far away, so invisible,
So determined at your new shores.