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May 2 · 359
IV Bard Remix
Mary McCray May 2
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 27, 2019)

What acceptable audit will you leave
from all your labors and confrontations,
from all the sound and fury
in those moribund board rooms?
The clocks are sluggish with boredom,
the carpets are worn and declining.
What successors will profit from you
past all the centuries and the arteries
evaporating in the light of day,
diminishing and belittled with time;
and all our productive bodies
lie buried, slacking in their tombs?
You are the renter in every office
and own not a penny but the doing.
Prompt: write a Shakespeare remix poem, using one of his sonnet lines, a sonnet word scramble or rewrite one of his ideas. Originating poem: Sonnet IV: plus "10 Shakespeare Quotes Every Entrepreneur Should Read"

Did this one on Apr 27 but it got stuck in draft.
Mary McCray Apr 30
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 30, 2019)

Fingers to the brain
400 WPM
Prompt: write a minimalist poem.
Apr 30 · 130
First Day
Mary McCray Apr 30
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 29, 2019)

At the end, you always remember the beginning,
sleepless sweating and the dread of the new.
It was going into battle through the glass doors,
the receptionist on the front lines, the rounds of names.
There was always the fear of missing something lifesaving,
the cliffs of inevitable failures ahead of you,
the roster of duties and missions you would not be suited for,
the impenetrable maps, the bank of phones with fifty lights,
the script of survival at the skirmish, the awkwardness
in the dying role.

Figuring out your generals and where they stood
from their hilltop proclamations, this little trooper
finally learned the war machine, way too late
to take on the mission with any patriotism,
way too late to be anything more than a soldier
serving out the term. My badge of honor
became what I could not do, my efficient honesties
and the raw willingness to fail.

Maybe this is a mark of a mature conscript,
the luxury of modesty, the last days
of having nothing left to prove.
Prompt: start with a declarative statement and write a powerful emotion reflected in tranquility.
Apr 28 · 292
Writing Poems 9 to 5
Mary McCray Apr 28
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 28, 2019)

My first job was data entry, with all those awful numbers.
The next ones were flush with time and words were incalculable,
floating out of copiers and stenographers. I hand-wrote them then

in-between walking memos to real, plastic inboxes.
Microsoft changed everything with their windows
in which I could type out my poems. After all,
writing poems looks awfully similar to working.
And instead of office supplies, I began to steal time.

I snuck words in through open windows,
met them in small storage rooms, had conferences
with them at lunch. I sat in ergonomic chairs
while they reclined on the yellow, lined paper.

Sometimes I had to cajole them.
Sometimes they were team players.
Sometimes they were only wanting to gossip.
Sometimes they came out of the mouths of people
standing unawares in front of my desk. Sometimes
they didn’t show up to work, but I couldn’t fire them.

They liked to be fussed over, rearranged.
They wanted to be knit and spaced.
All they wanted was my attention.
And they must have known I would never give them up
for all the money. Because at the end of the day,
when they took their leave, it always sounded good.
Prompt: write a meta, ars poetica poem.
Apr 27 · 253
So Many Recipes
Mary McCray Apr 27
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 26, 2019)

There can only be so many recipes for success.
There can only be so many recipes for meatloaf.
There can only be so many recipes for a hit single.
There can only be so many poems about dogs, breakups and trips to Italy.
There can only be so many biographies about Marilyn Monroe.
There can only be so many blues riffs, jazz interludes, and country songs invoking old cars.
There can only be so many widgets and thingamajigs.
There can only be so many eye creams, lipsticks and color-sensitive shampoos.
There can only be so many plastic bags, trampolines and podcasts.
There can only be so many versions.
I can only tell so many new bosses the ropes.
There can only be so many children’s books.
There can only be so many best-selling mystery authors.
There can only be so many brands of soft drink.
There can only be so many brands of liquor.
There can only be so many brands of water.
There can only be so many window frames, iframes and frames of reference.
There can only be so many fireplace repairmen.
There can only be so many times I redo this correction in this spreadsheet.
There can only be so many creation theories with their evangelists on street corners.
There can only be so many arguments I have with my terrier.
There can only be so many poems.
But no, spreadsheets and billboards proliferate like clover
and hypocrites are as bottomless as all the leaves of forever
and poems and recipes and pop songs are the infinite hives of a trillion bees.
Prompt: write a poem with repetition in the vein of  Joanna Klink’s “Some Feel Rain” or John Pluecker’s “So Many.” Getting this in after 9pm! Limping in to the finish line!
Mary McCray Apr 26
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 25, 2019)

What does it mean to be wise?
What does it mean to mentor?
In a world for the young,
does it mean anything?

Old trees in our autumnal springs,
we’ve been through all the weathers,
wind blowing off our bark skins,
the hot sun burning our green.
into a fragile brown crisp.

Among the hustle and bustle of the leaves
and in the hallways of the woods,
we see you repeating all our mistakes:
little seedlings spreading roots
too fast through the loam
for the feel of the cold earth
on your stringy new toes.

Can you smell the honeysuckle
growing like a blanket around you
and enjoy the buddings
of your first springs?

Your leaves are thirsty and proud,
but consider the perils of social climbing.
You hear frenetic twitters on the roof,
but once you climb you will see
only tar and gravel and broken shingles.

Listen to the clouds instead.
Work hard just to stand tall.
Prompt: write a poem like Keats’ “To Autumn” with a rhetorical question, a references to a season, and incorporating all the senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.
Apr 25 · 226
Mary McCray Apr 25
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 24, 2019)

ad·min·is·triv·i·a  (ăd-mĭn′ĭ-strĭv′ē-ə) pl. n.

1. “A term that encompasses all the trivial tasks that management is far too qualified to suffer through.”

2. Why companies should hire up and not out.

3. A practice that smells bad to worker bees.

4. A malady of misunderstanding how trivia can bring down an empire.

syn. A cop out.

origin. middle business-speak from the Marketing era.
Prompt: write a poem inspired by a reference book; dictionary, thesaurus or encyclopedia. Original definition from
Apr 24 · 96
Home Office Dog Couch
Mary McCray Apr 24
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 23, 2019)

I bought an eighty dollar dog bed
trying to get my dog to stay in my office.

She lays in the bed like Elizabeth Taylor
reclining in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

She, too, is a **** and she snores
loudly during my phone meetings.

The small couch bed is tan and svelte.
She is camouflaged while sleeping,

her head resting over the arm,
stretching into a sigh,

gazing across the room indifferently
as if to say, “jobs are for suckers.”
Prompt: write a poem about an animal.
Apr 23 · 758
Work Diversion
Mary McCray Apr 23
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 22, 2019)

I work for an international organization now.
We literally use the internet to work out the Internet.

We have offices all over the world
and I was messaging new colleagues from India.

I told them I was a poet sometimes
and asked them what they were sometimes.

Atul told me he liked trekking, especially to Indian forts.
Me too, I said, I like to drive to U.S. forts.

I immediately used the internet to look up Indian forts
and saw they are older and more beautiful than ours

with intricate sandstone walls, perched atop sandy hills.
Some were built by kings and some look like castles.

American forts are practical things, architecturally speaking,
out west likely to form a square and made of granite

or stone or, especially where I live,
melted adobe.

Ironically, forts near me are also called Indian forts.
But I didn’t mention this to Atul, for many reasons.

This was just a work diversion,
not a lesson in history, architecture,

or Christopher Columbus.
But, all the same, is it strange

that the long abandoned
become architectural curiosities

just like missions and gardens
and the houses of writers,

all of which I like to visit, too;
except forts embody some gesture

of intimidation or the ghost of a siege?
Unlike Mark Twain’s house

with its ornate fireplace
and whimsical gazebo.

Forts never escape
their assumptions of security.

Embedded in the crumbling walls,
the architecture of fear.
Prompt: write a poem about another form of art: music, painting, etc.
Apr 21 · 284
Eating the Keys
Mary McCray Apr 21
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 21, 2019)

I’m at the copier in an office with cypress trees for walls.
One of them is one fire.

I’m a secretary back in the early days of grunge.
There is a band playing in the hallway of the office building.

At lunch time we go swimming
on the backside of a cinder block wall.

Girls to the left, boys to the right.
The pool is shaped like the letter D.

I have one job: to make double-sided copies
of mortgage applications on legal sized paper.

This is before the days of automatic copy feeders.
This is back in the days of fax machines.

We fax applications back to corporate.
I fax and made copies all day long.

This is also before gel shoes.
Rocks grow out of the soles of my shoes.

There is an art to copying double-sided,
legal sheets of paper.

But no matter how I try,
I cannot get the sheets in the right direction.

Each time I turn them over,
they are upside down.

I can hear my co-workers down the hall
splashing in the pool.

I can see the cypresses, one by one, catching fire.
At the end of the sixty-fifth day,

I tell a joke about a big bug buzzing
up in the light fixture.

For the first time everybody laughs at my joke,
after years of telling jokes.

I decide to become a comedian
and quit the next day.

Five years later I’m back in the same office
with the burnt cypress trees.

But this time I’m not working copies;
I’m working forms in triplicate

on a new Selectric LII typewriter.
The keys are all made of Jell-O.

I like this new job,
but it makes my fingers sticky.

And it’s only a matter of time
before I get sick from eating all the keys.
Prompt: write a poem that “incorporates wild, surreal images. Try to play around with writing that doesn’t make formal sense, but which engages all the senses and involves dream-logic.”
Apr 21 · 93
Plan Bs
Mary McCray Apr 21
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 20, 2019)

“Everybody who likes to make a Plan B,”
the moderator said, “stand over here.
And everybody who doesn’t like Plan Bs,
stand over there.

There were two groups of us:
half the department on one side;
half the department on another.
Our directors where both on the same side.

So the moderator asked them,
“Why don’t you like to make Plan Bs?”

And the head of marketing said,
“I don’t like to make Plan Bs
because plans never work out.”

I really wish I could add a rimshot to this poem.
Prompt: write  write a poem that “talks,” slangy, based in spoken language.
Apr 19 · 483
The ABCs of CMS
Mary McCray Apr 19
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 19, 2019)

An asset is what they call web content, but in accounting
books the value is zero, because words are not assets.
CMS stands for content management system,
delivering content through website databases.
Everyone emigrates from system to system,
firing one when it’s presumed not to function,
getting shareholders their gold watches from
hungry startups with execs looking duly harried.
I’ve gone through many integrations and migrations
just like every other jolly content pro who prays to
karma or a Kickstarter for all the madness to stop.
Look at all the wasted hours of labor and you’ll see
much more time spent moving assets from
node to container to module to bock to
orb to cages that only entrap ourselves.
Pity us that we can’t perceive the absurd
quicksand, that we can’t quit the unwinnable,
reverse course and reckon with the real problem.
Storage is for hoarding stooges and
text is not a template. It’s a ceremony,
un-formulable, not useful within storage
vats. Outside of tidiness and vanity,
words are wandering like prophets in search of
X on a map or xylem in the stem. Which is all to say,
you might want to check out my yearling CMS,
Zen-content for the zealously organized bodhisattva.
Prompt: write an abcdearian poem.
Apr 18 · 87
The Three Gs
Mary McCray Apr 18
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 18, 2019)

Let’s just say we are builders of wagons.
Yeah, cowboys building coffee wagons.
Smart cowboys who had good hubs.

Even though the wagons give us plenty
of problems to be solved,
bonnets to be painted with advertisements,
commercials to be played on screens
out the back. But we were the best

wagon building team there ever was.
We liked each other; we laughed a lot;
we kept trying to improve our processes.
We shared life tips and work tips
and hiking tips and campfire tips.
We were grateful for each other.

Ester would visit me every morning
and we’d talk about our mothers
or she would show me how to paint bonnets.
Well, one surprising day
they escorted her out of a wagon
and sent her down the trail
without so much a howdy do,
after 28 years of painting wagon bonnets.
And they expressed no gratitude for all her bonnets.

And for this, the rest of us felt grief.
Elmwood picked up painting her bonnets
but he never wanted to work on bonnets.
Gwendolyn moved to another work team.
Ernie stopped caring about the wagons.

And then Bruce came to tell us
we weren’t even making wagons anymore
and that we would be making something else.
But we never found out what that other thing was
and our systems were disassembled
and all our projects were halted
and no gratitude was expressed
for all we had done.

And we felt grief for missing the wagons
and missing Ester and missing our sessions
of circling the wagons.

Entropy came and some cowboys began to feel
more than grief, they started to feel grievances instead,
grievances that Bruce and Betty and Barbara
from Corporate never visited and never knew
what making wagons was about.
And after a while we couldn’t tell the difference
between grief and grievances.

But maybe Corporate was right
because nobody is selling ******* coffee
out of wagons these days.
Or trains or trolleys either.
The work is nothing, after all that,
but spinning wagon wheels.
And all the wagons are melting right now
in the hot, dry sun.

Work is the moments and nothing else.
You can be grateful for that.
Grievances will get your out the door.
But your grief will never quit.
Prompt: write a poem about grief with tangible particulars.
Apr 17 · 243
Mary McCray Apr 17
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 17, 2019)

I see lots of ******* and armpits
and double chins
as a computer keyboard.
I am literally a tool
but the best kind.
I see the monitors too.
I know all the logins
in a very intimate way.
I’m a tactile person:
I know what you had for lunch.
And I’ve seen all the software apps
come and go, come and go.

All those logins, all their required tasks
just to get up and running.
I never see goals, strategy or time
used well for all the configuring,
for all the upgradings, new releases,
improvements that take so much effort to learn.

All the shiny new tools
with their compelling backgrounds
and addictive interactions,
they all pile up to a heap of work
to do before you get to important things.
And the more tools you have,
the slower you go: time to load,
debug, and forget that they never
completely do what you need them to do.
They never play nice with all the other tools.

They’re all just shovels
digging a hole.
They’re just hammers
putting up imaginary things.
They’re like those old silver, swinging *****;
they help you avoid thinking about hard work.

But not me. I get words out like nobody’s business.
I’m a real genius.
Prompt: write a poem from an unusual POV.
Mary McCray Apr 16
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 16, 2019)

For all those years ago.
For answering freely with no agenda.
For being lucking that first interview in the conference room in the office by the marina.
For admitting all I didn't know.
For that being crucial, the not knowing and the knowing what you know and do not know.
For ******* free zones, like IEDs of *******.
For what I am thankful for, for what I am wary of.
For the voices on the line.
For this Mac(in-tosh), for all the Macintoshes and other machines..
For being in meetings with the smartest people in the room.
For seeing the gears.
For conversations about the realities of cyberness.
For coming and going on good terms.
For the pinon tree outside my window and the growing hollyhocks.
For high-performing teams.
For mile runners.
For exactly where I was.
For exactly where I am now.
For the halls and the lines in the system.
For the hubs and the names here and gone.
For talking about it, structuring it.
For getting lost in it.
For being in and of the whole world, in its big and smallness.
For being in this one place, this one small space, out past the mountain with the largest arsenal of nuclear warheads on earth, out on the mesa, towards the sisterhood of volcanoes.
For the old office by the marina where it all started.
For the years of ocean at my back through the window.
For standing at the window and being thankful then.
For sitting by the window now and being thankful again.
For this time right now.
For coming to what is yours.
For never wanting what is not.
Prompt: write a poem in the style of Christopher Smart:
Apr 15 · 147
Let’s Just Say Sonnet
Mary McCray Apr 15
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 15, 2019)

Let’s just say I could run this foundation single-handedly.

Let’s just say no one here knows how to do their job and I’ve been doing this for years.

Let’s just say, between you and me, my football event is gonna really show ‘em how it’s done.

They’re trying to tell me what to do, can you believe it? They say these football players won’t draw a big crowd.

I need you to go to the sports store and buy me a football.

You know what a football looks like, don’t you?

You made a typo here on this thing. We can’t have any mistakes.

I typed that? Well, then my mistakes are your fault.

These guys are *****. Don’t pay them.

It’s not my fault no one wants to come to this event.

Tell everybody to get down to the bar and make it look like people came to this stupid event.

That was a complete fiasco.

But everyone was against me from the start.

Nobody would work with me.
Prompt: write a dramatic monologue.
Apr 14 · 1.7k
Leadership Contronyms
Mary McCray Apr 14
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 14, 2019)

To lead is to be light and fluid
like a pied piper.

But often they are like lead,
silver and immovable.

They sanction in times of mercy
like when your parakeet died
and you’re late to work.

They don’t remediate with punishments
of docked pay for your inability
to get over it.

They buckle it together:
strategic plan and daily ops,
team to team to team.

They never buckle under
like King Lear
or a bad knee.

The overlook the floor.
They know everyone by name.

They never overlook a widget,
flaw or warning signal.

They are stakeholders.
They hold a stake.

They are never proxies,
holding stakes for other leaders.

The are transparent, obvious.
Never out of sight.

They weather the downturn, withstand the force.
They do not corrode.

The seed. They put down seeds.
They do not rob the fruit.
Prompt: “incorporates homophones, homographs, or homonyms.”
Apr 13 · 127
Soft Skills
Mary McCray Apr 13
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 13, 2019)

The ghostly interpersonal,
the witchery of timing,
the mysterious outcomes
of patience and the profits
of charm, no matter
the heaths of play,
no matter the Frankenstein
or incarnate predicament,
its persuasive chill
and conjuring prevails
appear cryptic
and incomprehensible.
You cannot be initiated
or ordained into it;
you cannot be schooled.
And it is more fearsome
than gloomy inheritances
and more useful
than your bleak diploma.
Prompt: “Write a poem about something that is mysterious and spooky” in a good or bad way.
Apr 12 · 311
Erasing Labor
Mary McCray Apr 12
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 12, 2019)

“The daughter made herself
an expert in the illness, to erase it
on its own terms: still it stayed, it grew, and as you know
the eraser soon starts disappearing.”
-- Albert Goldbarth from “Not Sumerian”

Years ago I began an eraser manifesto
for a collection of my erasers,
all with their soft curves and rolling debris,
all kinds of shapes and function,
those perched atop pencils
and novel, freestanding monuments.

The manifesto is short enough
to be erasable and reads as follows:

Erasers acknowledge, accept and accommodate the idea of failure.

Erasing destroys the eraser.
This has ramifications in social relations.

Corollary of above: to love an object too much
renders it un-usable.

It’s fun to erase but also fun to resist erasing.
And this too has ramifications in social relations.
Prompt: “write a poem about a dull thing that you own, and why (and how) you love it.” Quote from:
Apr 11 · 91
Practicing Work
Mary McCray Apr 11
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 11, 2019)

In New Mexico I started with reddish mud in the backyard
and water, making pies in the rain or  driving Matchbox cars
through the soft dirt tunnels in the front-yard planter.
Moving the elastic earth. It felt like work. It was work.

Then we moved to Missouri and other imaginations came into it:
menus handwritten on shiny black cardboard for cafe tables.
Our customers were only conceivably truck drivers.

We were en plein air writers on the hill between our houses.
Math and grammar workbooks were re-purposed
for playing student and teacher.
The plays and newscasts we choreographed over a full day.
We were talent and the crew with scripts and backdrops.

Even when we played at motherhood, we left our babies
without babysitters and left for work.

When we were pirates we had to build our tree houses.
When we were scholars we need to assemble piles of books.
When we swam we were swimming to dry land.

Practicing work. I still do it. I think I’m doing it right now.
Prompt: "write a poem of origin. Where are you from? Not just geographically, but emotionally, physically, spiritually?"  The example they used is Origin Stories by Safia Elhillo and I have literally written my own about New Mexico with a very similar opening sentence! Mine was “I came out of the clay” vs. “I was made out of clay.” But mine must have a self-imposed office spin so this is the origin of me as a worker-bee.
Apr 10 · 78
Mary McCray Apr 10
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 10, 2019)

There’s a particular thrill
in being the moving thing,
the beast to send all others
into shelters, the efficient,
awesome torpedo
doing what you’re meant to do.

A good work team is like a fire of wind,
all the muscles of the engine burning
three-hundred miles an hour.

In Kansas they call it a twister,
a confluence of conditions
that send everyone into the cellar
listening to the cyclone rip up floorboards
and tip over all the tables.

In Missouri it was a tornado and a basement.
In an office it’s called innovation and disruption.
And a time comes for climbing out of gullies
and dusty bathtubs and diligently rebuilding the town.
And then saying benediction for the dead.
Prompt: "write a poem that starts from a regional phrase, particularly one to describe a weather phenomenon."
Mary McCray Apr 9
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 9, 2019)

The gray-suited day stalker
who doesn’t have a profession
or know what yours is,
but he checks to see if you’re dressed appropriately
and at your desk at all times.

Pretending that all problems can be solved
within increments of one hour.

Bragging, boasting under-performers.

The saying “a lack of planning on your part
does not constitute an emergency on my part”
because, in fact, it does constitute an emergency
on all our parts every day, this allergy to planning.

Vengeful Vionnas.
They’ve had a hard time of it
in the eras of flares and perms
and they’re taking it out on you.

People who sit in trainings and take no notes
and then later want help doing all the things.

The Slippery Sandy who avoids all responsibility
by claiming to be confused by her voice mailbox,
and insisting there’s too many emails to read yours,
and disappearing into every meeting unrelated to her job.

People who think going to meetings is the work.

Misguided goals. Lack of goals.
People who pretend not to know what a goal is.

The pain of seeing a good idea die
without the aid of a hired bully.

Watching the young
having to learn it all over again.
Prompt: Write a Sei Shonagon style list poem.
Mary McCray Apr 8
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 8, 2019)

The numbers are down;
the competition is high.
Data is demure
and playing it
close to the vest.
So they assign you a project
that takes you three months
of tedious spreadsheet work.
But no one ever sees it
because leadership changes course
two weeks after you’ve docked
and your little rows of cyber-work
sit unnoticed in the darkness
of their computers,
dying on the pass
like a souffle unclaimed
in the back of a French restaurant.
Next they ask you to set up a committee
to restructure the product line
and it takes up all your Saturdays
to meet the deadline.
But no one ever sees it.
because unbeknownst
to you and your piffling endeavors,
you’ve all been circling the drain
for six months now,
soon be bought out,
shut down or swallowed
into the dark, wet plumbing
of the toiling machine.
Dig, trudge, grind, drudge
through the cave-dark network,
floating on the keyboard
from one drain to the next.
Prompt: Write a poem using a professional phrase as a metaphor (thank god for tender mercies: an office prompt!)
Apr 7 · 116
Week End
Mary McCray Apr 7
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 7, 2019)

Today I stopped working for fifteen minutes
to sit on a bench I’ve carried from Venice California
to Santa Fe to Albuquerque
and listen to the birds nesting all around me
like opinionated men.
I’m sure some of them are birdsplaining
to other birds and some harpies are nagging back.
Building stuff is hard.

We're all out here together listening to spring
silently unfold from the trees.
Next month I’ll read a book out here.
Then the birds can see I know a thing or two.

My neighbor is up on his roof ripping up shingles.
I’m hoping he can hear the spring blooming too.
It’s a gift to be outside.
Prompt: Write a poem of gifts, to yourself and someone else.
Apr 6 · 72
Home Office
Mary McCray Apr 6
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 6, 2019)

If all the conditions could be met
(and all the stars align in my phone’s telescope app)

If we had to leave that other house suddenly
(and pay its landlord through our noses)

If we had to suffer heat exhaustion and motel arguments
(during three moves last year: Penske, U-Haul and an Enterprise van)

If I could dance like a ballerina delicately out of that chorus line
(not unlike a surgeon extracting his very self)

If the clouds would align to send down a rain to water our crops
(So unlikely, I’m in the desert after all)

If I had a few days to compose myself literally
(I was pulled through a hedge backwards last year)

If I can get through the paper-maze of the new enterprise
(like a donkey following a carrot through the boxwood)

If this could seem more than a solemn little pipe dream
(the pipe being referred to is an ***** pipe, did you know)

If I could walk out into the gardens at noon and smell the roses
(an exaggeration, but a happy idea)

If we had to go through all that
to get to all this

If I am sitting here right now writing this poem
(like I’ve always imagined it)
Prompt: Write an If poem of possibility.
*** this is going to be hard. Why did I pick an office theme??
Mary McCray Apr 5
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 5, 2019)

Does every villanelle have a villain?
Does every corporation have a crook?
Variations of rascals we must fill in,

Missions, visions and values for the killin’
And pardons to get ‘em off the hook?
Is every captain one part villain?

Professing family values but all too willin’
To trip the rival or cook the book
With every pernicious deduction you could fill in?

Resembling the goodly they’re so skillin’,
Pillar of the communities of mask and rook,
Second to none but a theological villain.

There’s a place where these souls should be grillin’
For all the pocketbooks they’ve took,
The loop holes they omit to fill in,

Those offshore dollars dutifully chillin’.
What to do when consumer confidence is shook?
When news men denounce every C-level villain?
Employ some innocent temps to fill in.
Prompt: Write a villanelle
I'm trying to stick to my monthly theme of office poems and still do the daily prompts.
Apr 4 · 136
Things I Didn’t Know
Mary McCray Apr 4
That to be honest was always fatal.
To try to get to the truth of the matter

was the last thing anybody wanted.
To be right about what just happened,

to locate efficiencies, to finish the job
and be the best–so far from the point of it.

Everyone just wanted to keep it going,
to pretend we were all working

and doing our best.
To be moving toward progress

instead of talking about moving
was not where they agreed to be.

Sitting in the sun-drenched mire of it,
sunbathing in the objectives.

That’s where the old saying was concocted:
putting lipstick on a pig.
Prompt: Write a sad poem, without emotional words.
This was my third attempt. Still too vague but I’ve run out of time and am not feeling sufficiently sad today to pull it off.
Apr 3 · 1.2k
True Story
Mary McCray Apr 3
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 3, 2019)

“Not all those who wander are lost.” -- J. R. R. Tolkien

I was an office temp for many years when I was young. All the companies: Kelly girls, Manpower, Adecco. I took innumerable tests in typing, word processing, spreadsheets.

The worst job was at a sales office for home siding. I logged complaints all day on the phone about faulty siding.

I worked at a construction site in Los Angeles, a new middle-class ghetto they were building on the Howard Hughes air strip. I worked in a trailer and had to wait until lunch break to walk a block to the bathroom in the new library.

There was one warehouse I worked in that had mice so employed a full-time cat to work alongside us. The cat left dead mice everywhere. I was always cold there.

A lot of places I was replacing someone on vacation, someone the office assumed was indispensable but there was never anything for me to do there but read. I wrote a lot of letters to pen pals and friends. Email hadn’t been invented yet. Sometimes I’d walk memos around the office. Nobody ever invited me to meetings. Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes it comes true and you end up sitting in endless meetings.

In one swanky office I prepared orders in triplicate on a typewriter. I kept messing up and having to start over. Eventually I started to enjoy this. It was a medical lab and was convinced they were doing animal testing so I left after a week.

One of my early jobs was as a receptionist in a war machine company. My contact there asked me to do “computer work” (as it was called then) but I didn’t know how to use a mac or a mouse. My contact called my agency to complain about sending out “girls without basic skills.” My agency told me not to worry about it, the war company was just trying to scam us all by paying for a receptionist to do “computer work.” So they stuck me at the switchboard up front where I found bomb-threat instructions taped under the desk.

I worked at a design store and learned a program called Word Perfect. I started typing and printing the letters to my friends. The St. Louis owner was trying to sell the company to a rich Los Angeles couple. Once, a young *** designer I admired called and referred to me as “the girl up front with the glasses.” I immediately went out and got contact lenses. Before I left, I bought a desk and a chair they were selling. Years later, I sold the desk to an Amish couple in Lititz, PA, but I still have the chair.

I once worked for a cheap couple running a plastic mold factory. The man was paranoid, cheap and houvering and I said I wouldn’t stay past two weeks. They asked me to train a new temp and I said okay. The new temp also found the owner to be paranoid, cheap and houvering and so declared to me she wouldn’t stay past the week either. She confided in me she had gotten drunk and slept with someone and was worried she was pregnant. She was freaking out because she was going through a divorce and already had two kids. I told her about the day-after-pill which she had never heard of. I don’t know if it worked because I never used it myself and I never saw her again after that to follow up.

At another office I did nothing at the front desk for three weeks, bored and reading all the Thomas Covenant novels. I would take my lunch break under a big tree to continue reading the Thomas Covenant novels.

I worked for months at a credit card company reading books and letting in visitors through the locked glass door. Week after week, the receptionist would call in sick. One young blonde woman would give me filing work. She was telling me all about her wedding she was planning which sounded pretty fun and it made me want to plan a wedding too. After a few weeks she asked me what my father did. I said he was a computer programmer. She replied that my dad sounded like somebody her dad would beat up. I was too shocked by the rudeness to say dismissively, “I seriously doubt that.” (For one, my dad wasn’t always a computer programmer.) When it became clear the woman I was replacing had abandoned her job, they asked me if I wanted to stay on. I said no, that I was moving to New York City. I wasn’t  (but I did eventually).

Some places “kept me on” like the mortgage underwriters in St. Louis. That office had permanent wood partitions between the desks, waist-high and a pretty, slight woman training to join the FBI. She fainted one day by the copier. It was there that I told my first successful joke ever. Our boss was a part-time Baptist minister and we loved him because he was able to inspire us during times of low morale. One day we saw a bug buzzing above us in a light fixture.  Before I even thought about it I said, “I guess you could say he finally saw the light.” Everybody laughed a lot and I turned bright red. I wrote my essay to Sarah Lawrence College there after hours at the one desk with a typewriter. My boss and I got laid off the same day. He helped me carry my things out to my car.

I worked at a large food company in White Plains, NY. I often came home with boxes of giveaway Capri Sun in damaged boxes. I helped a blind woman fill out her checks. She was really grouchy and I wasn’t allowed to pet her service dog. She had dusty junk all over her desk but she couldn’t see it to make it tidy. I realized then that she would never be able to use a stack of desk junk as a to-do list...because she couldn’t see it. You can’t to-do what you can’t see and how we all probably take this fact for granted with our piles of desk junk. Years later I had the same thought about to-do lists burned in phones or computer files.

They also “kept me on” at the Yonkers construction company. I was there for years. The British woman next to me was not my boss but she ordered me around a lot. She told me I looked like an old 1940s actress I had never heard of who always wore her hair in her face. I was annoyed by this compliment because when I looked the actress up on the Internet I could see it wasn’t true. At the time, everyone was just getting on the Internet and I was already addicted to eBay. I would leave meetings in the middle for three minute at a time to ****** items with my competitive late-second bids. It was my first job with email too, and I emailed many letters to all my friends all day long. One elderly man there thought it was funny to give me cigars (which I smoked socially at the time) and told me unsavory ****** facts to shock me. I thought he was harmless and funny and his attempts to unsettle me misguided because I had already grown up with two older brothers who were smelly and hellbent on unsettling me. Later the man started dating and seemed happier and I met his very nice older girlfriend at one of the laborious, day-long Christmas parties our Italian owners threw every year. Months later his girlfriend was murdered in her garage by her estranged husband. Most of the office left to go to her funeral and I felt very bad for him.

And they kept me on at the Indian arts school in Santa Fe. I loved every day I spent there, walking the halls looking at student art. I had never seen so many beautiful faces in one place. One teacher there confided in me about her troubles and I tried to be Oprah. She ended up having to take out a restraining order against a man she met online. At the trial, the man tried to attack the female judge and she awarded the teacher the longest restraining order ever awarded in Santa Fe: 100 years. He broke the restraining order one day on campus and we were all scared about where he was and if he had a gun. All around the school were rolling hills and yellow blooming chamisa and we found tarantulas in the parking lot. I was there almost a full school year until I moved away.

I was once a temp in a nursing temp office that had large oak desks and big leather chairs. The office was empty except for one other woman. The boss was on vacation and she spent all our time complaining about what an *** he was and how mistreated the nurses were. I remember feeling uncomfortable in the leather chair. The boss, who I never met, called me one day to tell me he had fired her and that I should know she was threatening to come back with a gun. When I called the agency they laughed it off. I told them I wouldn’t go back.

My favorite temp job was at a firefighting academy in rural Massachusetts. I edited training manuals along with two other temps. It was very interesting work. The academy was in the middle of the woods, down beautiful winding roads with old rock walls. Driving to work I would listen to TLC and Luther Vandross. And whenever I hear Vandross sing I still think of the Massachusetts woods. When I left, they let me have a t-shirt and I wore it for years. One of the trainers had a son who was a firefighter who asked me out on a date. I said I was moving to New York City (this time it was true) and not interested in a relationship. He insisted the date would be just as friends. He took me to Boston’s North End and we ate gnocchi while he told me how he didn’t believe it was right to hit women. This comment alarmed me. He then took me to a highrise, skyview bar downtown where he proceeded to **** my fingers. I thought about Gregg Allman and Cher’s first date where Gregg Allman ****** Cher’s fingers and how now Cher and I had something in common: the disappointment of having one’s fingers ******. My scary date didn’t want to take me home and I was living with my brother at the time, so I told him my brother was crazy and if I didn’t get back by ten o’clock my brother would freak out like a motherf&#$er. That part wasn’t true...but it worked. I made it home.

I used to be deathly afraid of talking to strangers on the phone. I used to be bored out of my mind watching the clock. I used to wish I were friends with many of the interesting people walking past my desk.

When I look back on all this and where I’ve been, it seems so random, meandering through offices in so many different cities. But it wasn’t entropy or arbitrary. I was always working on the same thing.

I was a writer.
Prompt:Write a meandering poem that takes its time to get to its point.
Mary McCray Apr 2
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 2, 2019)

What is it we’re doing among parodies and spoofs,
gardening statements and occupational gloom,
pickling our scorn and passive reproofs
around tables in dreary workrooms?
What is it we’re trying at the end of the day
before we climb into our sports cars and utility vans?
We don’t care a whit anyway
for the scopes and the archives and the myriad plans,
for dependents and despondents who pay us no rent,
for the annual declarations we mostly mimed.
The paycheck is dwindling and mostly spent.
The spirit has already been fined.
We are twisting ourselves around hemispheres.
What are we doing here?
Prompt: End with an open-ended question, provide lack of closure.
Mary McCray Apr 1
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 1, 2019)

1. Deck Standing
When you decide to leave ranks, rise above the deck like a gliding seagull.

2. Release the Missives
Send your final letters of adoration on the penultimate day, like a bird on the beach waiting to capitalize on a wave cycle.

3. Captain’s Greeting
Shake hands with the rest of the crew and watch them exit down into the gun deck.

4. Walk the Deck
Walk the perimeter of the establishment, bow to rudder. You will never see this ground again and, although you are still seasick, one day you will forget most of it.

5. Pack the Duffel
Collect your starfish.

6. Unhook the Lifebuoy
Prepare the skiff. The helm is literally every part of it.

7. Housekeeping
One last bit of gossip with the **** crew.

8. Unfold the Map
Chart a course to the port of ferries. By definition they will take you somewhere.

9. Salute the Mast
It is a rugged piece of your soul that you must leave behind.

10. Go
Set sail for the open calm.
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 30, 2018)

It was my early twenties and she was in our poetry class,
a girl taking the same train as I was
one late night from Manhattan
to the town of our school.
She wrote beautiful poems,
long lines without punctuation;
but mostly she missed class  
because she was an actress
and the rumor was
she was working on a Spike Lee movie.

The train car was mostly empty and lit with a bad yellow light.
Train people would read or eat
or I remember liking  to look out the windows
into the apartments of Harlem
because I longed to know how other people lived.
Soon enough, the lights would dim with the darkness
of the boroughs and then the suburbs.

She was sitting up to the left and she recognized me,
smiled and said hello. I was startled a bit
out of my reclusion and we had a small,
friendly conversation about our class
with Tom Lux and what a character he was.
We were like strangers or almost-strangers on a train,
connecting with the warm light of fireflies.
She would go on to star as one of a gang of girls
in a long-running TV series, but I can see her
just as she was that night, a girl traveling
into a future so amazingly ahead of her.

We turned back to our own private rides
and the cars returned to the quiet,
except for the shuffling sounds of all the tracks
we crossed. I sat in the melancholy yellow light
and caught a reflection of my own face
in the mirror of an evening window—
I, too, a ******* a train.
These poems for NaPoWriMo were inspired by a poem I did years ago for my friend Michele after hearing she passed away, 30 poems for inspiring women connected to me. The title now says "33 Women" because the poem to Michele poem had already been written as well as two prologues I posted March 31.
Apr 2018 · 442
33 Women: Screen Star Girls
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 29, 2018)

What you didn’t know was a lot.
They were essentially pixelated
and mostly human offstage.

What you saw were fictions
of the staged and costumed,
all the misleading mise en scene.

But there were clues,
the power of a photograph
and a deadpan stare.

The New Englander in slacks
no matter how goodly-wife she tried to be,
Hepburn always came out.

And the shaky-voiced cattail of Mary Richards
who once haunted my ideas of Marys.
But I came to accept her capable

punctualities and small courage.
So different from the vamp trails
of Cher and her roster of femme fatales

who never once succumbed
to a story. Or Bette Davis on a staircase
a tank of eye-rolling.

They were no sleuthing Nancy Drews,
none of them, no high-voiced cream puffs,
their sighs were full of gravel,

their silhouettes a poignant defiance
of No, I don’t think sos.
and So what if I dos.

They were living shedoneits,
the new swashbucklers,
arch, caped rapscallions

who could part the Red Sea
in a dress, sequins flaring
bullets at the lenses.

Years later, Ru Paul explicates this
on a show he calls Drag U,
how dress-up can make you feel brave,

how you could fight fires and dragons
with a dose of ***** and, in a pickle,
Walter Mitty-it and presume.
These poems for NaPoWriMo were inspired by a poem I did years ago for my friend Michele after hearing she passed away, 30 poems for inspiring women connected to me. The title now says "33 Women" because the poem to Michele poem had already been written as well as two prologues I posted March 31.
Apr 2018 · 460
33 Women: Mean Girls
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 28, 2018)

What they have to teach us,
I do not know. Something
about spoiled milk
or how bees become bullies,
the frayed benefits
of reservation.
Backed into corners,
most often by themselves,
they portray sinister
with moll faces, half-shadowed
in office hallways.
But they are no caricatures
of femme fatales;
they are their own systems
of blood and belief
and all the synonyms
of vindictive.
There was the prim boss
in the office downtown
overlooking the library.
She told me men
aren’t worth crying over.
They are like trains:
another one comes along
every fifteen minutes.
I was good cop to her bad cop
until she turned on me.
Then there was
the aristocrat of orchards
dismissing the riff-raff
with her friendly fire.
And the Shakespearean villain
of Amish country.
That was my first time in the tank
with a real shark. And then
the one who literally
put curses on people,
a real nails-in-the-parking-lot girl.
I think about her
every time I feel
bad mojo.
And does it all go back to the girl
who lived behind us
on Claudine.
Our fight in the street:
I was punching and she was slapping.
She called me Indian Giver
after she grifted all my toys.
They’re full of slurs, these broads,
and you feel it the first moment
they try and push you over,
the haze of smoke
floating over their kettles.
They **** out the trust.
Maybe they’re born with it;
maybe it’s in the makeup
or that their tantrums are like seizures
they can never come out of.
These poems for NaPoWriMo were inspired by a poem I did years ago for my friend Michele after hearing she passed away, 30 poems for inspiring women connected to me. The title now says "33 Women" because the poem to Michele poem had already been written as well as two prologues I posted March 31.
Apr 2018 · 372
33 Women: Natalie
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 27, 2018)

I would call what we do a trek
but it’s not really a trek

or an odyssey or adventure;
although it’s surely a hike,

sometimes a trudge or a slog—
moving the emotional self up a hill

with books and plans and gurus
indulging as we do, gleefully,

in the spa of self-explication
mapping patterns of the head

and heart through phone lines
and meetups, knowingly

like Sisyphus with his boulder
of hubris and comforting purpose,

he’s a proto-plucky yank, willful
but never crafty enough

to outsmart his own charming,
deceitful, underworldly self.
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.
Apr 2018 · 415
33 Women: Murph
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 26, 2018)

I see you as an archaeologist of the arts,
at the crux of things and looking for the heart,

a safarist with a holster of nets
versed in cryptology and novelettes,

searching for the beautiful mind
in the overlooked and wunderkind.

We hear your thoughts in conference calls,
on motor tours, in lecture halls;

and I’m always curious what you think
of curios and pieces on the brink.

You are as interesting as antiquities,
a modern woman with sensibilities.
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.
Apr 2018 · 338
33 Women: Ann
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 25, 2018)

Like a treasure found in a wayside book
or a cheeky verse of serendipity,
this one I came near close to missing
before we all dispersed into the winds
like dandelions spreading our poems.

It was the fluke of a suggestion at the end of a class,
apropos of nothing we were doing there,
a crash course in the attic of something more useful.

Decades later, we’re parsing
and consuming snaps of the cerebral,
emotional practicalities over pizza in Scarsdale.

We gush over words and their wordsmiths
like two docents explicating from room to room
at a Williamsburg of Writers that exists only in our heads,

but should exist, we know, on some New England gristmill
with a rock wall and people reading Frost on each side of it,
Mark Twain under the gazebo and Hemingway
typing and howling at Fitzgerald upstairs.

We could pull it off, we could,
like two verbose entrepreneurs
with the giddiness of girlfriends
who write their own epitaphs in lipstick.
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 Ann here!
Apr 2018 · 498
33 Women: Julie
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(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 **** 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!
Apr 2018 · 351
33 Women: Susan
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(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 ****** 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.
Apr 2018 · 270
33 Women: The Girls of UMSL
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(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:
Apr 2018 · 319
33 Women: Lisa
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(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 *****
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!
Apr 2018 · 269
33 Women: Nellie
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(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!
Apr 2018 · 291
33 Women: Ms. Eichorn
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(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.
Apr 2018 · 294
33 Women: Loren
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(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 ****.
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
Apr 2018 · 238
33 Women: Jenny
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 17, 2018)

We sat next to each other in history class
talking music. You were struggling toward
authenticity and I was so ill-equipped to help,
not having any of my own.

It’s a plundered word, lionized
and spent. But it helps
when you’re defending what you like.
And we will spend a lifetime
defending what we like.

Especially against the boys
who like to bequeath taste
and charts of song.

To this day, you are a haven
of conversation and we are still
combing through the bins
with the discernment of pirates.

You are staunch in the search
of the old and the new,
inspiringly unswerving.
You are an anthem
to the exploration.
You are the hymn.
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 Jenny here!
Apr 2018 · 358
33 Women: Donna
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 16, 2018)

My friend Michelle once told me about the many spheres of friendships:
she said there were friends you kept in your troposphere all your life;
drifted friends whom you would re-meet with intense bouts of chemistry
(this was Michelle and me); and friends who hovered around
only long enough to help you through a finite port of trouble.

I would add to this those friends who help you fill the days,
friends you don’t have anything more in common with
than the proximity of togetherness in time. Although, something
keeps you there beyond convenience—for here you learn
about the dramas of prom dresses and invitation lists.
You learn how to navigate boundaries around the obligations
of brotherhood and goodwill, how to reconfigure
after meltdowns in high school cafeterias.

Maybe you seem so similar for a time, your plans converging
around an idea of the future like a ****** biosphere
that is fragile and assailable to any other idea.
You could talk it through, diagnose your ailments,
map the trajectories of your cold wars.

But some friends are just like this, part of their molecular structure.
They step out of the biosphere and the element of time is suddenly gone.
The bell rings and they quake and split like two sides of a great divide.
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 Donna here!
Apr 2018 · 256
33 Women: Mandy
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 15, 2018)

It was Junior High, I remember. You had the house
at the corner down the street from the high school,
(our family drove by it a thousand times before I knew you),
the house with the little brown playhouse in the backyard.
What a lucky girl must live there, I thought, every time.

I remember you were the first to have a car.
(I remember it like it was a long, red two-door.)
We used it to drive to the north county mall
to learn what curising was about.
Turns out it was about cars, not boys.

I remember you introduced me to Donna
who introduced me to Nellie who introduced me to Lisa.
I remember we ate salads and worried about our painted nails.

I remember you standing in the hallway of the purple lockers
as our friendship wobbled those years I struggled
to find my footing. I remember feeling guilty.

I have no memory of the day we met.
I just remember you girls were from another grade school
and coming into your circle entailed surprise
slumber parties in your carpeted basement,
the kind of basements midwesterners called “finished.”

I do remember distinctly this, deep in my chest,
the first time I walked down those stairs
knowing the surprise was for me
and feeling very special for the very first time.
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 Mandy here!
Apr 2018 · 454
33 Women: LeAnne
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 14, 2018)

Historian of our 80s, you knew all the folktales
about rock bands and anecdotes of art parties,
DJ booths and offbeat pubs along the trendy
St. Louis blocks. The midwestern bands in the basements
of Ciceros, the more notorious at Mississippi Nights,
where we walked the cobblestone streets
in our black boots and short, spandex skirts.

All the times I tried to go with you and blend into it,
belong to it like a thrilling glitter. But the gloss
was like a glaze that would stick. Legitimacy
remote and dim in the bellies of windowless places.

Everyone had visions of moving to London
or even Chicago; and I felt wide-eyed at the dream,
how impossible it sounded. How angular and edgy
and abrasive and brave. I felt tedious and leaden
and lackluster at the likelihood of running away,
such a thing more riveting people did.

Toward the end of my midwestern life
I followed you deep into the city streets
to Bernards where grunge bands screamed
at their boredoms and broke jaws outside
the threshold. The hazy bathrooms,
the awkward hallways, the alleyways of misfit:
I remember the places
I could only be adjacent to,
at the border of,

on the melancholy curb outside,

in the halo
                  of all the notes.
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 LeAnne here!
Apr 2018 · 298
33 Women: Maureen
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 13, 2018)

“Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do,
to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else,
you must run at least twice as fast as that!"
               ― Lewis Carroll

Looking back you can easily see
        Alice in Wonderland
                 as a metaphor for being
an adolescent girl.
        At first you’re very thin
                 and then you’re very fat
and then you’re very weary
        of the landscape’s melodramas
                 and mysterious, mouthy animals.
You had been through it already,
        had a sense you had conquered it even,
                 although it’s hard to put order
to a cruel world.
       But I always thought
                 the campaign was a valiant one    
and you gifted me the instructions you had.
       Indeed, you were of the Alice kind,
                 blonde warrior searching for the balance
on the jerking cavalcade of days.
       We practiced aerobic drills
                 in the empty, front room of your house
and from that emptiness you gained a keen sense
       of what a house says about you.
                But inner rooms always resist order;
the fringe troops slipping into AWOL.
       It’s ultimately a funhouse, a fantasia,
                the cause is real but more
about battling fairy tales than trolls.
       Tireless gladiators at the threshold
               holding our flurry of blueprints,
ready to face the mad, mad deck of hearts.
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.
Apr 2018 · 298
33 Women: Christy
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 12, 2018)

Friendships of fragments,
the fragmented we,
St. Louis, the suburbs,
arriving to the neighborhood
like a meteor and punching Billy O’Brien,
the racial drama of sixth grade camp,
popularity and potential,
talent, a sketch on paper,
the face for it, the voice for it,
Donna Summer ballads,
matching t-shirts skipping
through amusement parks,
arguing with your father
about Tina Turner’s hair,
the Wiz of Oz, Dorothy’s apron
your mother made for me,
the opera house in summer,
Prince on a motorcycle,
pastoral summer picnics
and the man with the gun
chasing a deadman
who is running straight for us,
diving over the green hill
for dear life,
the pressures of place,
the buses of desegregation,
the slur of Oreo,
budding rebellions of youth,
the ambiguities of Nick Rhodes,
the radio on all night
bleeding into our hearts,
birth control, dangerous driving,
basement parties with shadowy couches,
boys too soon, promises to the self,
betrayals of self, everything
too much ahead of me,
what little I had to offer,
the feeling of heartsick
as we slowly drift apart.
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 Christy here!
Apr 2018 · 248
33 Women: Nathleen
Mary McCray Apr 2018
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 11, 2018)

The playground is full of scene stealers,
dodgeball psychopaths and line cutters.
Maybe everyone remembers
their first safe harbor in a face,
their first port of trust.
Maybe it was to the left of the slide
or in the shade of the swinging monkeys,
maybe it was a new kid as yet unappreciated
by her colleagues, the outsider
you can tell anything to,
any nonsense at all
that comes into your head.
She rolls her eyes maybe,
tsk-tsks a tall tale or two,
but then she goes home
to her grandmother’s house
and combs through the hours
of tabloids and comic strips
and finally digs up evidence
to prove all of your theories.
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 Nathleen here!
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