(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 24, 2018)

My first day at Sarah Lawrence when a mutual friend
introduced us as being from the same Midwestern city
and we discovered we were, but from different parts,
then laughing at a workshop comment that we should know
"something about cows" and this leading to all the things I did
that I never would have thought to do—on my own:
surfing the Internet that first day in the computer lab
of Sarah Lawrence, climbing a ladder in a Manhattan bookstore
to grab that book on HTML, getting from Yonkers to SoHo
in a car without paying a toll, a plethora of my moves,
and a plethora of your moves from Hastings on Hudson
to The Jefferson to Australia to Mar Vista to that Tarzan set
of the old MGM lot, the TVless Sarah Lawrence way
and pop-loving writers on the downlow throwing
theme parties for Jack and Cher, finding useful threads
in the banality of Sunset Strip, a real hullabaloo
in our living room with the kitschy shag carpet
of the 70s we loved, the Edgar Winter Dog on the beach,
the Edgar Winter Dog dining alfresco,
setting up a tent, setting up a website,
setting up a yard party around the treehouse,  
crying in green cocktails over the cheating Irish,
lecturing in a Buena Park pool with illicit bottles
of glass hearts, lessons in online profiles, all the concerts,
(the Tom Jones ones being my favorite),
and the courage to say something different about me,
the edible, the artifacts, the scenes and stories,
the traveled-for songs, the experience into the new,
even if it’s really old, the trip through
a friendship and the courage to take it
when you have a sister to share it with.
These poems for NaPoWriMo were inspired by a poem I did years ago for my friend Michelle after hearing she passed away, 30 poems for inspiring women connected to me. The title now says "33 Women" because the poem to Michelle poem had already been written as well as two prologues I posted March 31.

See Julie here! http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html#julie
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 23, 2018)

This is all with the caveat
that a lot of things you see from the outside
looking in, like a great cathedral of mystery

where we go for lessons in humor
and joining in, our laughs floating through
the catholic hall of anything goes.

Your laugh is rigorously good
and profoundly believable
amid all the adjectives of good:
full-throated, full-bodied,
fold-in-half and falling over,

and clarifying
in how to laugh with boys,
how to join in or stake a boundary
or stake a boundary concurrent to joining in,

stay true to yourself
like an oversight committee
in the midst of a joke;
it’s just a joke,
as harmless as sepsis.
Let it rip the seams,
peal out like an eagle,
giggle up to a boiling,
or spurt out
a glamorous guffaw.

You can be playfully vigilant in the mayhem
like those jazz age girls with their liberating,
back-bending laughs behind cigarette holders,
or the sarcastic factory girls, like Ginger Rogers,
who during the war laid down a joke
wielding a hammer drill.
These poems for NaPoWriMo were inspired by a poem I did years ago for my friend Michelle after hearing she passed away, 30 poems for inspiring women connected to me. The title now says "33 Women" because the poem to Michelle poem had already been written as well as two prologues I posted March 31.
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 22, 2018)

College English class with Ms. Cook.
We’re reading Pynchon and Faulkner and Silko.
The class is full of women and I would sit in the back,
only read chapters the day after discussions
so I wouldn’t miss anything
and never once stepped into the ring.

Those women, they were like surveyors
of what was coming ahead.
I remember the one who said
read Gertrude Stein like listening to rain.
These were no dorm girls
lounging in common rooms
waiting for boys.

Three black women sat up near the front.
They talked about jobs and sometimes even kids.
One white pregnant woman sat ahead of me
to the left, looking very suburban.
All of them took inordinate interest
in the meanings
of Chopin and Anderson.

And that amazed me.
Their lives amazed me.
No end scene with a day job.
No utterly domestic montage.
They wanted to be there and so they were
in a class that would never lead
to a job or a baby.
They were entirely enthused about V
and The Awakening and Ceremony.
This wasn’t transitions and dues;
it was investments and returns.

This was the year of the big predicted
earthquake along the New Madrid.
My class would not be cancelled
over news hysteria, so I sat at my desk
slightly unnerved and mused
about my exit strategy through the window.
The women kept talking their animated talk
about Light in August or Winesburg, Ohio
and the earthquake never came.

And yet it kinda did.
These poems for NaPoWriMo were inspired by a poem I did years ago for my friend Michelle after hearing she passed away, 30 poems for inspiring women connected to me. The title now says "33 Women" because the poem to Michelle poem had already been written as well as two prologues I posted March 31.

Story about the earthquake that never was: https://www.buzzfeed.com/tgounley/the-day-the-earth-stood-still
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 21, 2018)

Someone I liked was throwing a party that year
and we didn’t go.
We went to the Central West End instead,
to an all-night diner.
It felt fateful and good
and we were inseparable after that
all through college,
watching horror movies on VHS,
adopting our dogs, Ariel and Helga.
We dreamed of being cultured
and nesting. We made shrinky dinks
and Easy Bake Oven cakes
long after it was age appropriate.
We watched MTV all night long,
waiting for our favorite singers—

you waiting for mine,
me waiting for yours.

We walked through a Chicago snowstorm
and survived a tornado in Forest Park.
I thought we would be friends forever,
through all the rites of passage.
We were like some combination
of Annie and Lillian
except we never reconciled.
And now when I hear the radio
play Howard Jones
or someone mentions Hellraiser
or I run into a memory
with someone we knew,
in all the backwards glances
I can’t decide if it was the moving away
or something felt long before I left.

Where do these gaps come from,
like black holes in the fabric?

You gave me your Renoir print,
“Dance in the Country,
and I’ve kept it in my bedroom
for over twenty years.
The New Mexico sun has turned
it’s consoling reds and blues
to desolated, faded greens.

It’s my heart’s quiet hoarding
that even now
I don’t want to let it go.
These poems for NaPoWriMo were inspired by a poem I did years ago for my friend Michelle after hearing she passed away, 30 poems for inspiring women connected to me. The title now says "33 Women" because the poem to Michelle poem had already been written as well as two prologues I posted March 31.
See Lisa here! www.marymccray.com/33-women.html#lisa-nellie
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 20, 2018)

Some friends are warm,
electric energy that magically buoys yours,
especially when it sputters or burns,
an orange and yellow embrace,
a feeling everybody wants in a friend
and these chums are always split in time
half in all fronts. You only get the moments,
like prom nights, or quiet downtimes
stage left of our Senior plays.
I tried to play the witch like Meryl Streep
and you played Gretel like Paula Abdul.
That was the year I learned how to cackle
and you learned how missing rehearsals
for family vacations turns you into a cookie,
in a backup duet of cookies.
But you were a trooper.
You wanted to be a song and dance man
and you studied the moves of MTV’s dancers
and you cookied it up
and never let that sort of thing
ever happen again.
You dutifully played the part:
straight-A girl dumbing down for the boys,
straight-laced girl next door
becoming Vegas showgirl,
a real, good friend who disappears
into the neo-vaudeville.
But if we couldn’t corrupt you
with our spiked coca-colas
and lunchtime AWOLs,
Vegas wouldn’t. And when the drama
of the dramas wore me down,
you became permanently
on the road, foregoing milestones
and collapses. To us you were a paradox
and those who loved you
could either live with it or not.
I find you every few years
and see how time works
like an accordion, collapsing,
wheezing time.
We’re old broads now
full of stories.
We’ve been all over,
crisscrossing the landscape
in our separate odysseys.
Your glitter still tumbles out
of all the neutral, slimming black.
And of all the legends you imitate,
it’s your Lauper I love the best
because she’s just the explosion
of halcyon light and spirit
that most imitates you.
These poems for NaPoWriMo were inspired by a poem I did years ago for my friend Michelle after hearing she passed away, 30 poems for inspiring women connected to me. The title now says "33 Women" because the poem to Michelle poem had already been written as well as two prologues I posted March 31.
See Nellie here! www.marymccray.com/33-women.html#lisa-nellie.
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 19, 2018)

Her American Lit class was a disarray of desks,
as if to say
rows don’t matter in the chaos of literature.

She sat in the middle of seventeen
like the center of a cyclone,
and it was the way she held the book—

in the midst of honors kids
where I had slowly crept
from years of remedial; former friends

ignoring my sudden presence in the discussion.
It was lonely
and I felt so remote to the scene I wrote one thing

she found worth reading
and she read it
to the class while my face went hot,

all my divergent endings
to Huckleberry Finn.
And if the words of Gatsby

were still floating, etherized above my head,
I would be the bashful sycophant
loitering in their swagger.

It was the way she held the book.
It was her bearing.
She was pregnant and fierce

in her defense of our pregnant student,
as if to say we could,
sure as hell, read Hemingway and propagate.

It was her bearing. So muscular and precise,
like a Book General,
shoulders back, head high and bemused

at the brink of an idea.
I can’t explain it
but I’ve been trying to replicate it

all my life. It was the way
she held the book, dominating, contending
the flapping wings of pages,

chapters flipped open wide
by a single hand,
waving it around us like a gun.
These poems for NaPoWriMo were inspired by a poem I did years ago for my friend Michelle after hearing she passed away, 30 poems for inspiring women connected to me. The title now says "33 Women" because the poem to Michelle poem had already been written as well as two prologues I posted March 31.
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 18, 2018)

"...that bubbly, s̶h̶a̶l̶l̶o̶w̶  cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures." Definition of Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG)

-- Film critic Nathan Rabin



This is the friendship I didn’t quite make
but looking back, often think maybe I should have.

This girl was resolutely quirky, the kind who would become
a type of Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Like elves

lately they have a bad reputation because in movies
they only transform their dreary male leads.

But they exist and are beautifully transforming
to the struggling leads they daily inhabit.

In Ms. Taussig’s class in Junior High,
where I had a breakdown in the midst of anorexia

and where we learned platonic rhetoric
as applied in modern television commercials,

you tried to warn me about bad outcomes of friendship
with J-------. And yes, I was hypnotized by her cattiness

and the new phenomenon of her fluorescence gummy bears.
But I visited your room once and I remember

it’s wraithlike ambiance. You had a copy of Cher’s
“Dark Lady” on 45. The only girl I knew who did.

You were over it though. And full of smart,
strange ideas, like only painting the middles

of your long fingernails to make them look even longer.
You thought bravely, my number one criteria

of fascination. But I wasn’t there yet, I was a tightly
boxed-up version of magic, starving to burst.

For that reason alone.
And because we could have stirred up some shit.
These poems for NaPoWriMo were inspired by a poem I did years ago for my friend Michelle after hearing she passed away, 30 poems for inspiring women connected to me. The title now says "33 Women" because the poem to Michelle poem had already been written as well as two prologues I posted March 31
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