Her essays have been published in Book/Mark, Ape Culture and Hermenaut, The Journal of Heady Philosophy. Mary is also the creator of her alter-ego, zine, blog and resource site for Cher Scholar. She was also co-editor of the award winning pop culture zine Ape Culture.
Mary blogs about poetry at http://www.bigbangpoetry.com/
Let me tell you, I’m impressed with this blog.
Rarely is it so educational,
cumbersome and nicely sensational.
You’ve hit the nail on the head, you high dog!
I must say this issue is often a slog.
Not ample men find it inspirational
or like your links so navigational.
Your notion is good and I’m always agog.
If I give you advise for a tweaking,
perhaps it is what you already knew.
I search for things like what you are speaking,
intelligent views that equal my breakthrough:
If you have an old sink that is leaking,
click here and come visit the Hardware Zoo!
Hard mighty metal
plundering into the soil,
of calm, Sioux tracks on the cold
clay of thieves and History.
She was kneading the crevice
under my left shoulder blade with a forefinger
which had a tremor when she pushed hard
or “did anything with intention.”
Said it was only her right finger, a family trait,
(honestly, not an ineffectively way to argue
with a muscle).
I could hear the voice of an old man on a table
behind the curtain. His relaxation was a confession,
(maybe the knee jerk response to premeditated touch),
and I was like the otherwise engaged
priest. There was a surgery
and he was eight years addicted to pain
pills. One-hundred days sober now,
getting self care, (as Oprah would say),
he was enjoying his wife’s cooking again,
looking forward to some ice fishing
out at Eagle’s Nest, (something
he hadn’t done for 10 years).
“The canyon bowl is so quiet,” he said.
“Even if you don’t catch any fish,
you'd be content to sit there all day.”
“It’s Zen-like,” he said, “the ice caps
surrounding you, the elk and the coy-oats
frolicking out there on the ice.”
(Not with each other I presume.)
The old man’s masseuse
was a young man who never said a word
except, “Is the pressure too much?”
“It’s not like I have respect,”
the old man on the table continued,
“for those who get addicted to illicit drugs.
But now I have a great respect for the pain
they go through.” His masseuse and my masseuse
went on kneading.
“At least I have a life to go back to.”
A Donna Summer Triolet
The disco dancer needs a singer,
a heart spasm simmering with the pulsing zeitgeist.
The sequined torch song craves a swinger;
so the disco dancer needs a singer.
Giorgio-beats-per-minute, the remix has been spliced
as the belladonna exits onto the dance floor of Christ.
The disco dancer needs a singer,
a 12-inch orgasm blessing the joyous zeitgeist.
Dead men walking do not know
how a ticking clock impersonates a metronome
endlessly blathering on about Michelangelo
until a buzzer shakes up a heart in Rome.
How a ticking clock impersonates a metronome,
tucking in pieces and smoothing out sheets,
until a buzzer shakes up the dogs of home,
biting down all the same bones the under-worm eats.
Tucking in pieces and smoothing out sheets,
the grubs of this world push out the loam,
biting down the same bones the under-worm eats.
The only walls of a whispering dome
where the grubs of this world pull out the loam
endlessly blathering on about Michelangelo.
The lonely halls where the whispering roam,
dead men walking do not know.
An unrhymed Pindaric
“Either be wholly slaves or wholly free.”
-- John Dryden
Free verse, you are my original verse, my birth voice,
music of my inheritance, placenta full
of breath and heartbeats, my riotous word maps
shred of the rules of the patriarchy, the white
old world. Self reliance is All American, I say;
I say what I mean like daggers on blood stains, scientific
particularity, embellished with the subversive, diabolical
enjambment, a soothsayer and a liar, a sister assumed
in the interruption, a sister resolved
in the final line.
But you can spin out in an open lot.
Who’s to say a sister can’t mark out her own
shape—skinny, fat, fit to be tied up?
Who’s to say she can’t be obscure, obtuse, coquettish
with a song and dance or with raw, pickled reason?
There’s more to murder than some two-faced
enjambs. There’s the rhetorics of bondage and assuming
you invented the knife. Can we just cut the game
of its gangrene? Smelly history, politics,
III. The Stand
I take back the music; I will sing badly in my parlor,
set a line with a waltz or a moon dance.
I refuse to relinquish my words to the tyranny of English.
I refuse to relinquish my words to the tyranny of me.
I take back all shapes (if they flatter me) and mathematics.
I take back the agenda nailed to the wall,
refusing to relinquish my self to the tired old generals
of either side. I take back the third waves of the entire sea
and shitbox and I take back the almighty decision
of which witch is which.
Home on a Wednesday composing a ballad,
Lonely for snark and simile,
Caught in a funk, not up to this challenge,
Wish I was 18 watching MTV.
Videos would come in a plethora of color,
Medicating me in the dark,
Big hair travelogues, a jungle of ruffles,
Frivolous pyrotechnic sparks.
A zombie, a nurse, a dance hall girl,
A star if you are what you watch,
A fishnet and lace princess in training
With no time for verbal hopscotch.
When he lays down
sushi on the pallet
it exhales a sigh
Paddle into rice
damp, caking sea
warm in the throat
Glistening with meditation
flesh of reds and white
dead beauty on wood
I am a bear and a wolf
stained with salt and soy
Every puzzle takes a first step
figurin’ and measurin’—
cutting the extemporaneous—
getting the lay of the land
on the crime scene, on the body—
detailing and matching lineups—
following every lead
and kicking it in
with bluffing intimidation—
untangling the material
to fit, unstitching the profile
to back out mistakes—
the sweat of thought.
Putting it together
and tearing it apart.
The tyranny and the value
of the word on the street—
crimes of fashion
designs on murder—
what is revealed
if you’re not careful—
you can mesh anything together.
as your story stands
Time always running out
before the job is done
and after the job is done—
the bitter faces around the gallows
as the execution hangs.
Childhood is a small town in Labyrinth County
with brothers and sisters and cousins, big-kid games
beyond the porch. Grandfolks sending you off into the fray.
Heather with her wavy hair, bellbottoms and confident wiles,
held the key to the perfect girl, unlocking boys
she could take and own. Me, little cousin
with doe eyes for such starlings who could perch
in the middle of cross streets, in the palm of the world.
With the eyes of heirs, she was witness to the secret
map of her life, the way in, the way out, the whole ranch.
Soon she was riding with the older kids
in cars I could not catch. Too fast and far ahead,
they would not be followed by me anymore.
In a few years I stepped off the porch myself
onto unfamiliar streets, out of this town and the next,
cobbled together my own grid of streets, stood at the outskirts
to find the plains are an open field without a road or sign.
And because the earth is round, all streets circle back
to this town decades later, past cemeteries
and emptied-out gas stations. Why are they thin
and pale and I am fat with the dew of the apple?
What do I know?
I have become tired of my speculating
on how we all arrived: Heather is wilted and dry
from years in a window. I try to tell the story
about Heather in the palm of it, all the roads
that followed Heather. Her schemes, her dreams,
the labyrinth of grass,
the labyrinth of cockamamie,
the labyrinth of unfortunate results.
And here nobody had the treasure.
Nobody found the buried key.
Nobody found the directions behind the directions.
If they had waited, looked me in the face and asked me,
could I have told them what I have found?
No, you can’t follow anymore around these streets,
the future is a myth and times a damn shame everywhere.
Do the dead who love us know?
Profile of the Romans, statuesque, we gave her the Italian
Bianca, but from that failed into Bianca Bee, Binky Bee,
Shitty Pitty for that war injury when she was stationed
in neglect out in someone else’s yard. She keeps her nails
long, is soft as a humus dip, Mediterranean classical,
once a conqueror now gregarious, glamorous
like a female lion or demur when cornered
like movie stars before the war. Plump and voluptuous
like a tank who wants to snuggle and snore
wearing you like a wrap. She made us sure
with her love, inexhaustible
like a Western religion,
As suitors go, I’m sturdy and fun, fresh faced, considerate and neat.
I’m socially literate and wear all the best shoes on my feet.
I’m looking for love and a little adventure,
a fun-loving confidante who wont over-censure.
But my dates with you have been obscenely pristine:
dancing and golfing and luncheons on Eggs Florentine,
argued law with your Father while drinking dark coffee,
and swapped coleslaw recipes with your maid in the lobby.
You’re smart and you're keen and your sleuthing is swell.
You keep only good company, sending delinquents to jail.
You’re modestly perfect in all that you do.
But I like a girl with more Hullabaloo.
And I regret to be the one who must give you this news,
but George, Bess and I are all dumping you.
Eyes of a wolf, yellow and lineage of the forest,
Count Olaf eyebrows, white mischievous swoops,
he lays out like a swimming otter, kicks like a black bull.
He’s already six but we call him baby squatch,
Elvis, Franzipan, this arm-filling mouser,
connoisseur of fine earthy smells. He’s a heart leach;
let me be frank. He will stand on your chest
and look down into your lies. Life was so tough
on the streets of LA; he’s too proud to ask for much.
So you end up turning, inside and out, everything you have.
Today is depleted,
washed up and resigned.
Even the dogs have given up
and gone in. The candle stubs
cannot be lit. The backyard door
is stuck, the grass is dying in the sun.
And as the ghost chokes the old battery¸
the toy soldier lies broken on his side twisting
like a jerk, kicking his last futile leg up into the air.
What I know
about the tops of swing sets,
paint peeling over rust spots,
the arc of the swoop,
all the land falling silent,
the curve of the earth.
It was a moment
before gravity coaxed us back
down and physics hurled us up again,
chest out and flying,
having joy, having fun,
singing “Seasons in the Sun”
over and over and over.
We surveyed the concrete tunnels,
the sun-bleached dirt expanse
of second grade off Juan Tabo.
Within the year
we’d moved to cities of grass
and we flew
under the shade of trees,
over two levels of soccer fields
and a forest beyond that,
tetherballs obsessively circling
over spots of asphalt.
The third-grade boys
were already chasing birds
but we chose to fly, fly, fly.
Everyday our feathers rent flying,
wind-riding, sailing off the seat
and landing in the soft dirt spot
worn into the Missouri grass.
my bird friend Laura landed on the root
of a big oak tree, hands first.
She stood up, dusted off,
and walked with southern poise
to the nurse.
When she came back that afternoon
she was grounded
in a white wrist cast.
And the boys caught her after that.
Who doesn’t write about bombings today?
If not with letters then in how you tie your shoe
or how you feel the ball of your foot on the ground?
How could you not think about the literalness
of a finish line today, race over, tried your best,
crossing over too fast?
Who can’t think of losing today?
The losers, the failures, the left behind, all the losses
gained when trying to win?
of souls in blood soup.
on a witch.
Soldiers who are literal
and brutally figurative.
What is knit and what is skin?
The Americans and their reels
of black and white gentility
making flip books of paper
and ink marks, bullet holes.
Natives are the explorers,
the reincarnations who
bloom and forget.
The sounds of the mouth and heart
passed through hands.
Fingers touching vocal chords.
Eyes searching for breath.
The imperceptible agenda
of the letter A.
A prose poem
It’s all boarded up now, abandoned in the triangle of downtown Roy, New Mexico, but like a lost island named Capronea two-hundred forgotten years ago, I find myself back in the summer of 1977, seven-years old in the balcony of a second-run, small town movie house watching The Land That Time Forgot in that small-town, movie-timeline kind of way: two years after everyone else. Popcorn brides, my cousins and I walked the movie processional during opening credits, almost missing the proverbial plummeting message thrown out to sea in a water cask. Candy-bored through all the world-war-submarine scenes, I perked up with innocent horror at the spreading circle of blood in the river, rifles shooting into a gaping dinosaur mouth. And the thunk of its neck hitting the deck. Years later I come back to the epic on classic TV. This time I notice the wobbly love story, German metaphysics arguing with British empiricism that lasts only one flirty scene. Now I’m shocked and a little dismayed over how little screen time the dinosaurs actually get, their three Shakespearean scenes, how I still feel all the same heartache as they enact their long and dramatic death throes. Doug McClure is alright, I guess, except that his hair is always blown out to an impossible feathered confection, just like the German Captain who keeps his hat on way past when this is necessary or useful. We laugh with ironic smugness at the stiff Jurassic puppets and the blood on rubber, the convolution of the island’s evolutionary biology. Those river amoebas are a hoot! Oh, the ironic wink that double-crosses itself in the end, an irony that is really homesickness longing for sincerity, simplicity. My husband says he prefers this movie to those Spielberg ones. I give him hell about this but later come around to see his point. Let’s take the movie’s basic premise: we are at the end of history presumably. So even if we could forget all that history, wipe the slate clean as it were, we still wouldn’t get along with our rivals. At least not enough to fashion an oil refinery from sticks and stones, pack up all that oil in barrels, and roll on outa this nightmare.
None of us will get off this island alive. At the end we’re left crossing a mountain of ice with two people whose only hope is to simplify things down to survival and sex—and sex in those impossible furs no less (in dinosaur leather maybe). We can’t help but trip over the metaphors here. They're everywhere. Only back in 1977, we believed them.
for Merle Stevens Wehmhoff
It’s always a summertime cruise
and we’re sweatin’ on the deck,
leaning back on white chairs
and telling tall tales.
A hot river breeze is floating by
with a cool shade clinging
loose to the banks.
We’re drinking ice teas with lemons
like were Kings of that place.
We’re high rollers and barking
like we own the place.
We sail by the entire world
rolling down that river,
our big wheel turning up and up
the wake’s white froth.
At twilight we‘re dancing
and leaning over the edges
as the lights came up
all along the boat.
Isn’t it always this way:
before the end someone
takes a mind to duck out early,
always the life of the party,
always in a coattails and a big hat.
They’ll tip their brims and give you a wink
as they step off the south side ramp,
twirling canes and umbrellas,
depending upon the rain.
The party crowd always tries
to lure them back
but it’s never any use.
And the last you see them
they’re sauntering up the hill
and then they hit that crest
without even so much as a wave
or a shout of see you soon.
The boat slows down
to kind of a melancholy float,
everyone looking back
but they’re already gone.
My married life
has a new ghost fix du jour—
a show called Haunted Collector
where John Zaffis pulls dirty
historical do-dads out of haunted
domiciles, lines them up in bell jars
every harrowing episode.
His basement must be bursting
under the floorboards with EVP
chatter, ephemeral dead men
making residual trips down the hall
for midnight tuna-fish.
Last night we went down to Louisiana
in Deep South Paranormal
where a cast of drawling ghost hunters
cat-called the departed with backwater
truisms about cats and frissons.
Two bearded ZZ Top-types rattle
and shout through the Longleaf sawmill,
suffocated, chipped and abandoned.
But interestingly, our typecast yokels
take a new tactic beyond respect,
sympathy and confrontation. They play
their guitar for the undead, unleash
a melody, tempting the cryptic spirits
to step over the trimmers and chippers
and into the laser grids of square
lights, K2 meters, thermal camera frames,
The peepings of ghosts have ceased
to spook me. The proliferation
of paranormal pollsters
are crotchety and terrified,
modeling and grandstanding
the character American,
heirs of TV Kings and monsters,
castle builders, suffocating,
chipping away and abandoning
our very real screaming human