(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
21h · 80
33 Women: Susan
(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
2d · 85
33 Women: Lisa
(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
4d · 43
33 Women: 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.
6d · 78
33 Women: Loren
(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
7d · 38
33 Women: Jenny
(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! http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html#jenny
Apr 16 · 118
33 Women: Donna
Mary McCray Apr 16
(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 virgin 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! http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html#donna-nathleen-mandy
Apr 15 · 49
33 Women: Mandy
Mary McCray Apr 15
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 15, 2018)

I.
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.

II.
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.

III.
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.

IV.
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.

V.
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! http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html#donna-nathleen-mandy
Apr 14 · 202
33 Women: LeAnne
Mary McCray Apr 14
(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! http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html#donna-nathleen-mandy
Apr 13 · 100
33 Women: Maureen
Mary McCray Apr 13
(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 12 · 78
33 Women: Christy
Mary McCray Apr 12
(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! http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html#christy.
Apr 11 · 52
33 Women: Nathleen
Mary McCray Apr 11
(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! http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html#donna-nathleen-mandy.
Apr 10 · 55
33 Women: Lillian
Mary McCray Apr 10
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 10, 2018)

We roller skated right to the edge of 1978
and when the sidewalk was too close to home
we skated up the hill to the edge of the trees
where we walk-skated through the woods
toward the lake. We found abandoned places,
an old chewed-up couch and rusted, white appliances.
And when we heard the voices of bigger boys,
we hid behind big trees and waited
until the back-way path to the pool was clear.

We spent the afternoon jumping into the pool
yelling silly things before cannonballs.
We skated the sidewalks two blocks home.
One day two Missouri rednecks in a car,
probably imagining themselves some dukes of hazard,
threw beer on us from their window and yelled “chink.”
I remember our shocked faces and sticky legs.
We were a block from my house.

I remember realizing
how close we were
to men who would throw beer
at eight-year old girls.

That’s not quite true though.
I took artistic license there
to give the poem a loop.
On pool days we didn’t skate
and on skate days we didn’t swim.

“Well, if that part’s not true, maybe none of it's true.
Maybe no one threw beer at you.”


See that?
I can still hear them to this day.
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 Lillian here! http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html#lillian-diana.
Apr 9 · 100
33 Women: Diana
Mary McCray Apr 9
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 9, 2018)

Two blocks over and up the hill, the summer walk of forever
through the thick, humid exhaust of Missouri,
you were my only two-story house friend;
and I was always very curious
about how the two-story people lived.

We would use the landing of the stairs to play board games
about imaginary adulthoods, the negotiations of paydays
and inserting stick children and husbands into plastic cars.
I used to hide my money under the board like a hustler.

In you I could see what beautiful and smart looked like
together in one girl, the weld of quiet but not shy,
the deliberate ballet of your fingers,
maybe from hours of masterclass piano.
You were like the figurines on your dresser,
solid but also fragile. You could be sensibly stern
as you flipped your long, shiny black hair.
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 Diana here! http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html#lillian-diana.
Apr 8 · 163
33 Women: Jayne
Mary McCray Apr 8
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 8, 2018)

Our time together was brief and occasional
but illuminating in how closed I had become
to myself. Horseplay dusting up
only inhibitions: Billy Joel throwing a rock
in your basement, the unmoved dollhouse
in the sunroom, breakfast in the green,
carpeted kitchen: you asking, “Cocoa Pebbles
or Lucky Charms?” Me answering, “Whatever,
you decide...” because my choices might betray
some unlikability. And so I was paralyzed,
some Joelean Stranger meeting myself
in a mask for the very first time,
afraid of the risk of choice, the self
dissipated like a mist over a boat
on a lake. Which is all to say
this lead to my first self help initiative,
age nine: to start having opinions,
so as not to become the worst sort of friend
I would ever have.
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 Jayne here! http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html#krissy-jayne.
Apr 7 · 60
33 Women: Erin
Mary McCray Apr 7
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 7, 2018)

Pretty girl of the 70s, fully inhabited
in bell bottoms and t-shirts,
eyes like grandmas.
I was always trying to be where you were.

But I was the smallest of the cousins,
four years younger, awkward in the face
of country glamour; and the click-clack
social order left me on my own
sometimes in the weeds
walking circles in the hard yellow
grass around the Roy house.

Those summers were pretty borrowed dresses
for the anniversaries of aunts,
the Ladd girls walking dirt patches
between the houses to the church,
riding the yellow truck into the prairie,
the sound of wind through our hair like a song.

It was a beautiful piece of time
as they go.

At the end of the decade
you were on the cusp of boys
and we sat on my brother’s trundle bed
waiting for your favorite songs on the radio,
which were Rupert Holmes and Cliff Richard.
We were trying to bounce to the disco beats
of Richard, who wasn’t counting sheep
or losing sleep. This was the last time
I followed you around like a puppy,
before I became reserved and self-conscious
about too much love in myself.

And the next time I saw you
it wasn’t so funny,
but we didn’t talk anymore.
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 Erin here! http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html#erin
Apr 6 · 82
33 Women: Krissy
Mary McCray Apr 6
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 6, 2018)

When I moved to the Interior,
the wonderland of wet greens,
I met an explorer years deep
in her expeditions
of sunken ships and newsrooms,
lunch counters and single, spy moms.
A researcher combing through libraries,
she was writing codices to the future
hunters of relics.

I became a tagalong junior
and spent friends for it,
friends I liked.
That was the cost of the bounty
as was a dollface or two.

We were constantly and violently
shipwrecked and our soap operas
were salacious. The blonde one
could never be a lady killer.
The mustached one
we turned into a villain.
We were powerful overlords.
We were the deciders.
We swooned over brunettes
but they were hard to come by
in our villages and townhomes.

We scared ourselves in the mystery
but we were brave. We survived
on desert islands. We starved
and swam the channels
and went to college periodically.
We covered a million miles,
and vanquished.
We were celebrated
in a thousand books.
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 Krissy here! http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html#krissy-jayne.
Apr 5 · 95
33 Women: Marla
Mary McCray Apr 5
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 5, 2018)

We are seven, Marla and me,
standing on a corner street in the labyrinth
of neighborhoods off Juan Tabo.
We are the edge of town

and Marla is crying, in trouble maybe
because we scratch salty words on sidewalks
with chalky New Mexico rocks

or maybe because we’re negotiating
all the rights and privileges of the tag BFF,
only forever will only last a few more months
before my family moves to Missouri
and nevermore stretches out
like diverging roads on a map,

or maybe because we will subsequently grow up
and find ourselves in the middle of it.

In any case, Marla is spilling tears
and I am fervently trying to make the case,
the very hairbrained case,
that tears are a limited resource
and one wouldn’t want them to “run out.”

Today, forty years later, I would like to circle back
to that corner in the crook of Juan Tabo and Highway 40
where we were standing at the edge of it.

I have an amendment to make;
and if I had a dime for every bad idea I’ve ever had,
this one would be framed because it was the first.

I would say, “Marla, tears are bountiful.
You can have as much as you want,
as much as you can stand.
They’re just about the only precious thing
you will never run out of, be at a loss for, find yourself bereft of.

They are endless.
They are bottomless.
And they will make you who you are."
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 Marla here! http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html#marla
Apr 4 · 66
33 Women: Estelene
Mary McCray Apr 4
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 4, 2018)

In the brown 1970s, laying my head on the blue
      polyester pants of your lap,
the smell of earth in a dusty Plymouth,

traveling through the pitch black
      winding roads of rural New Mexico,
dirt roads that make dashboards rattle,

stars glittering the sky like sequins in the silver
      gown of heavenly cat walks,
the boys in the back,

your hand running through my brown
      hair, saying my name
on the verge of my dreams.
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. Some of their pictures are posted here: http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html.
Apr 3 · 79
33 Women: Katharine
Mary McCray Apr 3
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 3, 2018)

I’m five and we’re all in a town called Roy,
     a ghostly epicenter of the West.  
I’m circling a grand old Mexican table
and have wedged two plastic dolls, cattywampus,
     into the frames of a green and red leather chair.
My grandmother Katharine sits there,
the matriarch, her legs crossed, smoking, smiling
     and playing gin.
She’s telling stories about Indian country and towheaded boys
shooting out street lamps with guns.

A decade later we’re in her city apartment
     hovering over my education
in English Toffee, needlepoint and love letters.
I fail them all just like like Gigi with grand Aunt Alicia
although my lessons were Wild West instead of Paris.

Soon, it’s her funeral with the long dust train across the prairie.
She’s lying in the small Methodist church her grandfather built,
long fingered hands folded over her prestigious blue suit
     with its large eagle pin.

Her presence is large. We are sprinkled with namesakes
     like enduring salutes.

And whenever I’m asked if I was born to wealth
or have the inheritance of prospectors,
silver glamour borne straight from the well,
the magic charm of gold...
This one was really difficult. I have so many experiences to work with concerning my grandmother. It was hard to find that "one indicative scene" and I made three pages of notes this morning trying to locate her (and failed!). My grandparents could literally be their own book of poems.  

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. Some of their pictures are posted here: http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html.
Apr 2 · 104
33 Women: Wilma
Mary McCray Apr 2
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 2, 2018)


It was a wheat farm in Iowa in the 1920s,
all brothers and two girls,
and a father who doesn’t believe
girls should go to school.

This was not unusual for the times

I imagine the day you left that farm
with your sister
going all the way to Washington state
as if only an ocean would stop you.

She worked to put you through college
and you worked to put her through college

back when a job could still purchase such a thing.

And I wonder about the energy that took
to be stubborn, to believe otherwise—
in a new city demanding new pathways
and the tall shadows of a multitude
       of doorways.

I think about how wonderfully before you were,
before Mrs. degrees and empowerment seminars
and leaning in,

what Leroy was thinking while he was waiting downstairs
at the boarding house. Did he tell you over diner

about having the courage of your convictions?
Did you talk about your courage and your convictions,
and how beautiful were your convictions?

Reinvention is something we do on a Monday
     nowadays.
What was it to be a girl in the 1920s
breaking out, leaving behind?

Was it ever about vocations and motherhood,
or just the hubris of a father farmer?
What was the fuel for the engine
of your determination?

Far from the jazz and the liquor
and the short fringed skirts,
two rebellious teachers
were smoking their own inevitabilities.

And how I never saw this in you
even when I was in your arms.
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. Some of their pictures are posted here: http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html.
Apr 2 · 360
33 Women: Rebecca
Mary McCray Apr 2
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 1, 2018)

“Who for Truth could die
When all about the owned the hideous lie!
The world redeemed from Superstition’s sway
is breathing free for thee sake today.”

--John Greenleaf Whittier
On the family memorial of Rebecca Towne Nurse,
Salem, Massachusetts



In the vault of personal history lessons
I bank this one from the Bay Colony.

History is family and how far we go back
is though the repetitions of American centuries

like seasons, back to the boat
where persecutions landed

and seeded in Salem farmsteads
with their mysterious pilgrim conceits.

Goodwife Nurse from Great Yarmouth
was 33 years in the new world

eight children and a mediator’s wife.
They said she was as good as good is,

an unlikely accused witch,
not allowed a lawyer

in a trial full of spectral evidence.
Rebecca was the martyr

who turned the tide of religious hysteria.
Thirty-nine signed the petition

that still survives in a museum
proving the pitifulness of petitions.

Innocence overturned,
reprieves reversed:

the trials of the women
who are hung in public.

Rebecca Nurse was frail and deaf
and the questions of her court floated away

unto justice and the silence
was taken as proof of her guilt.

They also said she could fly.

Years after the recants and vindications
and her house made historic

and her name found in a play
persecuting new persecutors

and new verdicts blaming Satan
or bad wheat

or boundary disputes among neighbors
or outspoken critics

who make themselves a target
of those they stand up against,

her family forgave everybody
but the village minister.

They hung a 71 year old woman
in 1962. And I tell myself,

they can hang you, too.

In the play, Rebecca stands at the gallows
and her children ask her why

she hasn’t said more in her defense.
Rebecca says she has lived long enough.

And she is credible and brave
before the judgements of God.

And if blood counts
and if I have one-eighth of her

in me, one-eighth of the defiance
against the loving dead,

that is something, as they say,
to take to the bank.

Not a story, not a claim, not a word
not a pulpit, not a altar, but a seed

in a hallowed bank of seeds.
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. Some of their pictures are posted here: http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html.
Mary McCray Mar 31
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: March 31, 2018)

I know you love her by the way you speak of her
as she walks the carpet in sea-green, sunlit gowns.
Who would ask you to break with her or her literature,
Abandon her A-list avenues or prickly crowns?
I suggest only one alteration—uncover the veil
and see the violence they’ve done to her face,
but-her-face with sunken eyes of rust and wail,
foundations of varnish you could still embrace.
No time or reason to turn and leave despite
the yellow brick ways of which you’ve dreamed.
Cast and gloved, she’s not looking for an acolyte,
but someone to love her becoming un-seamed.
So solidly was she the vision of your inspiring
and knowing her fully, imperfectly worth desiring.
These are a set of poems inspired by a poem I did years ago for my friend Michelle S. after hearing she passed away. I was on a writing retreat in O'Keeffe Country and using a notebook she had given me. I was surprised and very moved by her inscription. At that time I thought I would someday like to write 30 poems for inspiring women in my life for NaPoWriMo. The title now says "33 Women" because the Michelle poem had already been written as well as the prologue above, drafted auspiciously on February 14. I've already compiled and chronologically ordered the women and posted their pictures here: http://www.marymccray.com/33-women.html. There's also a past NaPoWriMo poem that also complies with the project, a poem I wrote about Laura D., a girl I met in third grade, "When I Was a Bird" - https://hellopoetry.com/poem/350345/napowrimo-challenge-april-15-2013-when-i-was-a-bird/ - which brings us up to 33.
Apr 2017 · 366
Ideologies
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 30, 2017)

The struggle never ends.
Not for you. Not for me.
The victories come and go,
beliefs and claims in a riot
of madness and certainty.
The hawk is never vanquished,
the dove is never pacified.
The tale is never told.
The extremities burn their own
in tantrums and strategy.
The soul will sell for a dollar
to the paparazzi and the scholar,
the orphans and the squalor,
a crowd of props and pawns
in protests and parades.
Napowrimo 2017: Write about something that happens again and again.
Apr 2017 · 434
Serenade
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 29, 2017)

It was named after the ship’s Admiral,
Louis Antoine de Bougainville,
and it usually crawls along the porch frames
or borderlines the windows of bedrooms,
transforming dingy frame bungalows
like a mistletoe of summer.
Angelenos pronounce it almost Spanish-like
without the lovely trill of Ls.
And this morning we look up
where it came from
and hear this story
about the first European
who found it on exploration in 1769,  
2oo hundred years before Woodstock.
A botanist, who was also a woman,
snuck aboard a ship disguised as a man,
flowing through the drab spaces and corridors
where women weren’t allowed.
The galley, the botany, the discovery.
Jeanne Barē, the first woman
at the circumstance
of bougainvillea,
the first one
to circumnavigate,
to circumvent
the world.
Napowrimo 2017: This is the penultimate poem! I’m exhausted! Pick a noun from one of your favorite poems (I picked “Seranade” by Billy Collins) and write a poem around it.
Apr 2017 · 361
Modern Manners
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 28, 2017)

Upholding etiquette,
terms to fretiquette
like laws of grammar
that make us stammer
and what’s the matter,
obstinate manners?
Disturbing the rude,
curtailing the crude
chronic disruptor.
A social rupture.
What’s good for the goose,
to hell with the truce.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a Skeltonic.
Apr 2017 · 393
Ode to Salsa
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 27, 2017)

I’ve done this ode many times before.
I was weaned on this ode
where appetite is for the appetizer
and salsa is the blood and guts
that feeds the baby. The spherical planet
of the tomato, reflecting sun on its skin,
cuts and bleeds a thick calming juice.
Smell is the trigger and the buds begin
to register the cool, salt taste
before a single drop rides the tongue.
The idiom of heat—a sliced green chile
or dark jalapeňo, the shape of dripping light,
the second planet of onion, severe and raw
like a crux, joins its sister pieces of earthy garlic.
The chopped pico de gallo is bright and primary—
through fusion, a picante smooth and criminal,
blood red with white seeds which will burn.
A small vessel of penance and grace.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a poem poem that explores your sense of taste.
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 26, 2017)

In a square tomb attached to a 21st century dwelling, archaeologists have uncovered a massive trove of artifacts related to what they believe is an ancient deity called Chēr:

1. Something called a “Cher Makeup Head” which researchers believe is actually an altar piece for greasepaint and grooming ceremonies.

2. Over 75 circular shaped and mostly, but not all, black colored vinyl plates which were most likely used for holy feasts.

3. Eight 12-inch hard-plastic statuettes of the deity complete with various diminutive and sequined polyester costumes allegedly used at one time for ceremonial recreations of sacred and historical events.

4. One male statuette of a man with a mustache. Scientists are not sure the role of this statuette but believe he might have represented either the deity's male concubine, nemesis or svengali.

5. Various plastic cases with shiny discs inside. According to materials included in tiny booklets inside the plastic cases, these discs were used in some storytelling apparatus that projects sound and images onto a kind of archaic screen. These stories are believed to be mythologies related to this particular deity.

6. A miniature temple made of orange and blue plastic. The temple has various pieces that are very difficult to assemble but once constructed form a structure with revolving stages and rooms. Archaeologists believe this temple was used in conjunction with the small hard plastic statuettes in ceremonial recreations.

7. One shelf of bound manuscripts labeled “biography.” Researchers believe these books were bibles, possibly from contrasting religious sects, containing all mythologies and theories related to the deity creation story.

8. Various ceremonial pieces of clothing, mostly highly causal wear, usually white in color with some image of the deity on the front and a list of dates on the back. We believe these dates represent either major weather events or memorable war battles that took place during the deity’s lifetime.

9. Large scale representations of the deity, rolled up and stored in cardboard tubings.

10. Small boxes of perfumes, lotions and shampoos believed to be healing ointments, salves and meditative balms created by the deity or her representatives.

Thousands of other relics from other deities have been found in similar houses around the world since excavations of the 21st century have begun. There seems to have been no consensus in the 21st century around one or two deities. There are literally hundreds of them in storage facilities and tombs, and in some cases, domestic interpretive museums.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a poem about what a future archaeologist would make of our culture (or rather, my garage).
Apr 2017 · 384
Poem Spaces
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 25, 2017)

There are many small spaces
where poems come from
like a vortex in the room
or the far deep of the brain.
Early in New Mexico
was all about fermenting
with disasters of toys and monsters
living in the wall. Music fed
the core from a stereo console.
St. Louis was the smart house,
flower papered walls for things
Jessica Lange said in Tootsie.
This is where the poems came
if I sat under the window,
warming on the heat vent
between the foot board
and the bookcase my father built.
The dorms of Kirksville were vacant
and Maryland Heights was about collecting things
not words. Massachusetts, off the Great Road,
near the colonial stone fences and the old world woods,
was transitional, with suitcases
stuffed under the bed.
Yonkers was the second vortex
in the basement corner.
I wrote my way into morning while Helga
growled at the ghosts in the closet.
The nightstand light turned on by itself
while I slept and beautiful Mars things
were imagined. The river place
was a reading place, always flooding.
We invented our Internet spaces there.
In Pennsylvania, I wrote above the garage,
reading to stave off the sink hole
of misplacing myself. The first zine.
Playa del Rey was during a rainy season,
but the early morning sun on the balcony
was a small, shining vortex in a glass of water.
My only writing in the melancholy outside.
California was a renaissance,
poems abandoned on the carpets.
Mar Vista had a converted garage
down a shallow step into a plush shag.
This is where we planned books and courting ads.
The second Zine. The genesis of cowboys and zen.
Helga died here. John came here.
Venice was all about making pots
and domesticating on threads of ideas.
Redondo was dubbed Mayberry
with its shade and birds.
I couldn’t write in its beautiful spaces
so I planted budding bushes.
Back in Santa Fe, we made a makeshift office
out of the makeshift dining room.
The ceiling had hundreds of trees.
The third Zine. The first book.
Down in Albuquerque, there are cowboys
on the couch. The same twister of books,
poems and pop songs. Every piece
of every piece feeding into its space.
Every poem belonging to its home.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a poem exploring a small defined space.
Apr 2017 · 373
Snickering Marginalia
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 24, 2017)

Elaborately drawn under the calligraphy towers,
above the tendrilling border lines and flowers,

there’s an idea of meditations and devotions
lost at the border of scribblings and notions.

Monks are making statements in monasteries:
a cabal of ladies holding baskets full of Henrys,

disembodied Henrys, Henrys growing on trees,
the harvesting of Henrys, this name a phallic trustee,

the work-safe word I came up with, befittingly generic,
suitably affable and applicable to the alabaster eunuch.

Search Google images for Medieval manuscript marginalia.
You’ll find a plethora of genitalia.
Napowrimo 2017: Write an ekphrasis poem based on the marginalia of medieval manuscripts. (A link to google images was provided.)
Apr 2017 · 262
Stacks
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 23, 2017)

Office
Chaotic stacks
Crux of house
Where the dope lives
Brainstorm

Field
Open grass
Paper blowing away
Along odysseys of grass
Unleashed
Napowrimo 2017: Write a double elevenie.
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 22, 2017)

There’s a pickle recipe that’s been in our family
for many years, many times a blue ribbon
winner at the New Mexico State Fair.

It came from my Great Aunt, Missouri Avaletta,
and her daughter, who is over 85 years old now,
jars one-hundred pickles year after year.

We are not farmers. The dust bowl taught us that.
This is a waterless state. But apparently cucumbers
grow in any kind of earth. They have shallow roots.

So after the last frost, you can sow them
in average, well-drained soil.
Give them plenty of sun.

Plant four to six seeds three inches apart,
one inch deep. Gently firm the dirt over them.
Keep them moist. Don’t talk to the pickles

about how you see the world. Don’t give them
your opinions about the president.
Talk to them with metaphors.

And don’t forget the dill. Let it be the weed that it is.
Gather the harvest when the dill has seeds
and the pickles are three to five inches.

I have a cousin from Alaska
who told me when I was six
that a pickle was a drunk cucumber.

Pickles in the garden
they don’t all grow the same
although they grew from the same place.

Honor to this family of pickles.
Honor to the bitter. Honor to the sweet.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a georgic.
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 21, 2017)

Like engaging with my superpower
I am waiting to overhear.

I am the seed spot in this office
where I can overhear it all.

And there it comes
from behind a closed door.

“I would gladly do that,”

said in such a way to be completely without
pleasure or bloom, even maybe

with a tint of bitter apple
and a prediction of hopelessness.

And then the conversation turns
and somebody laughs

and then everybody laughs
and then the door opens

and promises are made at the threshold
with a keen shine of gladness that is full of deceit.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a poem incorporating something overheard.
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 20, 2017)

My headquarters are full of tennis balls, basketballs and boxing gloves, figuratively speaking. Literally there are only golf balls
in the bureaus of CEOs. Maybe a horse.

Field offices are loathe to make apologies or analogies
while they’re swinging for the fences. But I had a boss once

who was known for his sucker punch.
I took it on the chin until I threw in the towel.
It was par for the course but he was sidelined for it,

ultimately thrown out of the game. His biggest insult
was asking me if I knew what a football looked like.

At the worst of it, I had a famous football player
in my corner. He literally ran interference during play.
I was dancing in the end zone.

But the sticky wicket was my choice to be an office caddy
in the first place instead of a canto girl.

Where did I drop the ball, not keep my eye on the ball?
Was I lightweight at the turnover?

Grandstand hollers are definitely in my wheelhouse,
my proverbial slam dunk. I can throw my hat in the ring,
square off and go the distance.

I’ve had my years of first down bad plays.
I’ve learned some lessons of the game.

There is no such seventh inning, there is no homestretch.
Everything is under the wire but the wire itself.

You are the only ringer to the winner and the loser.

I keep throwing myself out there like a Hail Mary
which is why I’m evermore a ball in their court.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a poem incorporating the jargon of a game.
Apr 2017 · 273
A Creation Story
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 19, 2017)

In the beginning of everything a door opened into the Universe.
This was the moment when the Supreme Guy discovered the World.
He sat down on a white throne and made proclamations and prophecies
but there was nobody there to hear them.

So he started to create a plethora of beings—germs, bugs, ants and
    people—
who would be able to listen to him making his gossipy prophecies.
All these new beings crawled up from the underworld,
through a deep sinkhole, emerging into a big white bowl.

Gleaming from birth, they could see their creator.
Floating with joy, they sailed on the seas
and felt the rush of wind from creation’s vents.
Some days there would be a deluge of suffering

and the people learned to ascribe this to the Supreme Guy
who probably had eaten hot lava and fire the day before.
Some days were a peaceful rain. Some days were sun.
Some days the creator would disappear for a long time

and the people would be alone in the Universe
and no one would know what to think or believe.
But the Supreme Guy would always return with new decrees
that would smell of buttermilk and cheese.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a creation myth.
Apr 2017 · 426
The Bathabout
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 18, 2017)

My tongue is an open field,
A tarryhouse, a dwadlefund.
My brain is a dog house,
A slothfred, an erratictician.
My heart is an inflatable inner tube on the lake,
A treadologist, a swimsucker, an aquadiator.
My feet are divining the amblesphere,
a gist, bearably a drift.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a poem incorporating neologisms, made up words.
Apr 2017 · 278
Midnight in Winslow
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 17, 2017)

The trains come every few hours
bringing layers of night in compartments

of sleepers, processions of dark
to convalesce the whispering

cottonwoods. The station windows
are dark. A rare hotel window

glows yellow from a lamp.
Someone is reading

about Mary Colter.
Her stone property wall

like a bulwark against our passage.
The overnight swooshes of the convoy

fade out into the flat horizon
while stamped sheets of tin nichos

unbent themselves in quiet pops
downstairs, old Harvey keys

snug in drawers. Is this the night
almost one hundred years ago?

Or will we all wake up with the trains,
shuttling into tomorrow?
Napowrimo 2017: Write a nocturne. This is for La Posada, the restored Harvey House in Winslow, Arizona.
Apr 2017 · 555
Dear Adult Face
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 16, 2017)

Dear Adult Face,

This letter is to inform you that your employment is no longer needed. I am planning to make some structural changes area-wide and our affiliation will be terminated. During your tenure with me your performance metrics were clearly stated, as were the implications for deficient outcomes. Despite three prior notarized memos you have failed to address lagging issues and for quite some time you have failed to live up to my expectations. And as I feel I must put my best face forward, I will be refilling this position.

Yours in success,
Self-Improvement Initiatives

Dear “Brain,”

I would just like to calmly say to you—in response to your very unsurprising termination letter—you expect too much. Being your face wasn’t ever easy. In fact, you don’t know the crap I’ve had to put up with, every single day, representing you. Never a kind word from the boss. Never a massaging flattery. This face you’re looking at, Buddy—I am part of history. I’m the real deal. So pardon me for living—but you can’t just get rid of a face so easily. I’m not a piece of meat you can toss out with the trash. I’m a survivor. I’m more you than you are, you cavalier bag of bones. This isn’t the end of it. I’ll be seeing you again again someday before we leave this earth. If you’re lucky. You toxic jerk.

Wishing you a punch in the new face,
Original Face
Napowrimo 2017: Write a poem in the form of a correspondence.
Apr 2017 · 297
In the Fields of America
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 15, 2017)

Like a game of cutthroats
where it’s safe to not win and safe to not lose,
the pillow room of politics, peaceful and nonpartisan,
the middle is not invisible but the only slightly visible,
the waving stalks and straw of the masses, ghostly,
a place where you can pass, where everyone is passing
in order to stay in play.

Like the strong arc of a story
where the middle meanders but the end feels inevitable,
honorable, like a journey among knights, like the harvest,
the long farm days of history, respite before the climax:
the dogs are asleep, children in the fields of alfalfa
and then the trees rustle at the windbreak and you worry
maybe you’re not in the middle anymore.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a poem about the idea of being in the middle. This is the halfway point of the NaPoWriMo challenge at napowrimo.net.
Apr 2017 · 350
A Clerihew
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 14, 2017)

Pablo Picasso—
Everyone would follow.
But no one else made millions,
Not even the Brazilians.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a clerihew.
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 13, 2017)

Dubious uterus and fallopian slide, the schoolyard for the ovaries
and where the air is full of talk of bees and ovaries.

Where one begins and the other one bends,
this marks the difference between knees and ovaries.

Punctuation is the point of this methodical formula,
plus a plethora of particulars like groceries and ovaries.

Good times go by as years and ages and epochs
and we research our prospects on heart disease and ovaries.

The origin of art, the origin of life, we study and define
the emblems of potency and all the ironies of ovaries.

All the bloody periods is the point of this procedure,
is why we exalt the expertise of the ovaries.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a ghazal.
Apr 2017 · 319
Book Bound
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 12, 2017)

Beyond the bounds of the book
lie intangible plots if you’re feeling
frustration with the form: so open, flip
and close. So controlled. So safe.

Flippancy is really explorer’s envy
with all their maps and metal detectors
and technology of the times threatening
our melancholy universe which spins
to the new, dangerous tale, the world wide
web, the wonderful skim, step and sinking in,
piercing and wholly unclosable.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a poem with lots of alliteration and assonance. This is dedicated to electronic literature.
Apr 2017 · 417
No Money, No Metaphors
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 11, 2017)

It’s a world of too many institutions,
flybynights, everything for a squeeze,
students giving everything to the landlord,
a book, a visit to the doctor—
not everyone will survive it,
your hometown, your alma mater.

We live in interesting times.

The money movers, the bonds,
martyr retirees, the thrifty—
no money, no metaphors,
no synecdoches building up the edifice,
no icons, no engineering,  
no puzzlers or paradox,
just the conundrum of greedy ignorance
claiming an ever higher rent.

We live in interesting times.

Outside, the big mountain lays down his tail
beyond the cottonwood tree, hand to hand
we work this place, unassuming servants
under the sun. What does a simile cost?
A bridge, a salvage, a clarity?
What does deliverance cost?

We live in interesting times.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a Bop poem. The refrain is a quote this morning from our college president updating us about our situation, consider the fact that our Governor, Susana Martinez, cut out all the state budget for higher education in New Mexico with a line item veto last Friday.
Apr 2017 · 350
The Fairy Godmother’s Son
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 10, 2017)

I don’t know what the perks of the prince are
besides the castle and monetary wealth implied.
I’ve never seen them articulated in copious accounts
of literature. I guess the point is clear enough.
Marry the prince or look into other genealogies.
For instance the Godmother’s son who literally
cooks off the book, has been raised by women,
pings only girls on Match who like Lucinda,
is a steadfast shapeshifter, a soul catcher,
a charmer who tests high in Context
but performs well in Woo, a magic woo
that can hypnotize the sisters of Cinderella
during family games of Scattergories, leaves
lids off of perishable items, wears a map
of Ireland on his ass like a logo of his ancestry.
Probably does more than half…blue,
blue eyes, undeterred by your madness.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a portrait poem.
Apr 2017 · 530
Magic 9 Form
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 9, 2017)

Hocus pocus—artifice alchemy brew.
Seek the dictionaries of abracadabra
To find a liquid mercury clue.
Alla peanut butter sandwiches
Will turn your poem blue
While Walla Walla Washington
Will douse the verses through.
Best recipe for a glimmering hoopla:
Salagadoola…bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.
Napowrimo 2017: Write 9 line poem. I chose the Magic 9, a new form presumed to have been influenced by the word abracadabra. Rhyme scheme: abacadaba. I was also influenced by the song “Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo” from Cinderella which I couldn’t stop singing in an airport once in Kansas City.
Apr 2017 · 635
The Tempest
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 8, 2017)

What starts as a thrilling dust devil
fun fun funnel
bluster that runs into bloody

the Victorian sofa broken in the yard
twist twist twisted
splinters the size of swords

the chairs and sink and dresser drawers
squall squall scar
shredded rubber and steel

the heap of indistinguishable trash
sucking sucking spun out
man on his knees in the mud

the lifeless foot of anything precious
returning your wreck to you
turn turn turned.
Napowrimo 2017: Write incantation repetition poem. For a few weeks I've been intrigued by a New Yorker poem by Alice Oswald called "Evening Poem." I didn't fully understand it, but I kept seeing a tornado in it.
Apr 2017 · 427
The Thing About Luck
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 7, 2017)

I always tell this story to others and to myself when something bad happens, the Taoist parable about the farmer who has only one horse and that horse runs away. The neighbors say, “such bad luck for you” and the farmer says “maybe” and then the horse returns with 10 new horse friends and the neighbors say then, “such good luck” and the farmer says “maybe.” Then the son breaks a leg trying to ride the wild horses and then the son escapes the draft because he has a broken leg. The neighbors never do get it right. The farmer never does decide if his luck is good or bad.

The problem is that life is so big and luck is so small. So when I was nine years old and left my favorite pendant, a mysteriously cloudy colored heart shape, hung on its chain at the corner of our yard’s wooden fence because I was leaving a sign to the universe that I wanted a life full of love adventures, a few days later the necklace vanished; and I knew even then, as I felt acute loss and for decades afterwards, (because my grandparents from Oregon gave me that pendant and I would never, ever see it again), even then I knew it was too early to know if the story was misfortune or good fortune, as some bird carried my heart flying toward some nest hundreds of yards or hundreds of miles away, (maybe even over all the states to Oregon), to a place where God only knows.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a luck poem. I loved today’s examples so much. It was hard to rise to this beautiful challenge.
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 6, 2017)

This is a man who literally counts his dogs.
This is a man who knows geometry and trigonometry,
      casually.
There exists in Alabama a hedge maze of this man’s brain.
This is someone concerned about time trails and sun dials.
This is someone concerned about IPCC reports and drought.
This is a man who would literally sacrifice his skin.
This is a Shirley Jackson story.
This is a Lemony Snicket story.
This is A Rose for Emily.
This story will one day be a movie, no doubt.
The half-glass proverb was not a metaphor to this man.
There is a man in every town who shouldn’t be made to want to leave it.
Who tells his story?
Napowrimo 2017: Multiple points of view/"Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" poem. Like everyone else this week, I am enraptured with the S-Town Serial podcast. And I’m only through episode #3! This is such a beautiful podcast about resignation and survival and economic despair and the more I compiled this list today, the more I came to draw out all the literary references in the story, I now see a layer of it as a parable for what makes storytelling both holy and necessary for our own survival.
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