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7.2k · Apr 2019
True Story
Mary McCray Apr 2019
(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 gay 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 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 9, 2015)

The tendency to forget information that can be found readily online by using Internet search engines.

This information is the result of my searches on Google this morning:

• “Never memorize something that you can look up.” Online this quote is widely attributed to Albert Einstein.

• “[I do not] carry such information in my mind since it is readily available in books. ...The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.” This was Einstein in response to not knowing the speed of sound as included in the Edison Test. (Wikiquote)

• Many people wear the same clothes every day. In Einstein’s case this was a grey suit--the reason being that our thinking time is wasted making irrelevant wardrobe decisions. I also re-read the Henry David Thoreau quote about life being frittered away by detail. But when considering what is being frittered, you could add the mind, the spirit, time itself. This idea was part of Thoreau’s “simplicity, simplicity” quote which I once bought as a magnet from the museum at Walden Pond in the fall of 2001. I didn’t remember that date. I just googled a story about the trip, ( In any case, I felt the magnet was being ironic. Like Einstein, President Barack Obama wears the same variation of two suits every day in order to “pare down decisions.” Apple genius Steve Jobs wore the same thing every day as does Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. (Elite Daily:

• Google is creating personalities for androids, personalities that will live in the cloud and can be swapped into robots. I plan to forget this information because it’s creepy and like Ripley in the movie Alien, I’m suspicious of androids unless they are like Lance Henriksen in the movie Aliens in which case I would probably buy that personality for my robot if I had one.

• I also found out today that Google's images section, (which I use religiously when blogging), was created due to Jennifer Lopez’s green floral Versace dress, the one that opened like a surgical split to her navel, the one that caused such a kerfuffle when she wore it to the 2000 Grammy Awards and everyone searched Google fruitlessly for it afterwards. I’ve forgotten about that dress because I hated it. It looked like a Miami house-robe for one thing and I don’t like any couture that structurally hangs off *****.

• Google also announced a new patent today for a warning system that protects you from pop culture spoilers on Internet pages. If you think about it, this warning system will protect you from Google itself. Sometimes a little information ruins everything.

• I found all of this Google news on Google News.

• You can find more Einstein quotes here:, one particular quote informs me that creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.

• D’oh!

• Which is a word I have always remembered because the great poet Homer said it.
Hello Poetry doesn't allow linkage in poems which created a problem for my Google-based poem today! To access the links you can cut and paste them into your browser.
3.2k · Apr 2019
Leadership Contronyms
Mary McCray Apr 2019
(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.”
Mary McCray Apr 2013
My married life
has a new ghost fix du jour—
a show called Haunted Collector
where John Zaffis pulls *****
historical do-dads out of haunted
domiciles, lines them up in bell jars
every harrowing episode.
His basement must be bursting
under the floorboards with EVP
chatter, ephemeral dead men
making residual trips down the hall
for midnight tuna-fish.

Last night we went down to Louisiana
in Deep South Paranormal
where a cast of drawling ghost hunters
cat-called the departed with backwater
truisms about cats and frissons.
Two bearded ZZ Top-types rattle
and shout through the Longleaf sawmill,
suffocated, chipped and abandoned.

But interestingly, our typecast yokels
take a new tactic beyond respect,
sympathy and confrontation. They play
their guitar for the undead, unleash
a melody, tempting the cryptic spirits
to step over the trimmers and chippers
and into the laser grids of square
lights, K2 meters, thermal camera frames,
the obelisk.

The peepings of ghosts have ceased
to ***** me. The proliferation
of paranormal pollsters
are crotchety and terrified,
modeling and grandstanding
the character American,
heirs of TV Kings and monsters,
castle builders, suffocating,
chipping away and abandoning
our very real screaming human
American creature.
Last night saw the premiere episode of Deep South Paranormal.
Mary McCray Apr 2013
A prose poem*

It’s all boarded up now, abandoned in the triangle of downtown Roy, New Mexico, but like a lost island named Capronea two-hundred forgotten years ago, I find myself back in the summer of 1977, seven-years old in the balcony of a second-run, small town movie house watching *The Land That Time Forgot
in that small-town, movie-timeline kind of way: two years after everyone else. Popcorn brides, my cousins and I walked the movie processional during opening credits, almost missing the proverbial plummeting message thrown out to sea in a water cask. Candy-bored through all the world-war-submarine scenes, I perked up with innocent horror at the spreading circle of blood in the river, rifles shooting into a gaping dinosaur mouth. And the thunk of its neck hitting the deck. Years later I come back to the epic on classic TV. This time I notice the wobbly love story, German metaphysics arguing with British empiricism that lasts only one flirty scene. Now I’m shocked and a little dismayed over how little screen time the dinosaurs actually get, their three Shakespearean scenes, how I still feel all the same heartache as they enact their long and dramatic death throes. Doug McClure is alright, I guess, except that his hair is always blown out to an impossible feathered confection, just like the German Captain who keeps his hat on way past when this is necessary or useful. We laugh with ironic smugness at the stiff Jurassic puppets and the blood on rubber, the convolution of the island’s evolutionary biology. Those river amoebas are a hoot! Oh, the ironic wink that double-crosses itself in the end, an irony that is really homesickness longing for sincerity, simplicity. My husband says he prefers this movie to those Spielberg ones. I give him hell about this but later come around to see his point. Let’s take the movie’s basic premise: we are at the end of history presumably. So even if we could forget all that history, wipe the slate clean as it were, we still wouldn’t get along with our rivals. At least not enough to fashion an oil refinery from sticks and stones, pack up all that oil in barrels, and roll on outa this nightmare.

None of us will get off this island alive. At the end we’re left crossing a mountain of ice with two people whose only hope is to simplify things down to survival and ***—and *** in those impossible furs no less (in dinosaur leather maybe). We can’t help but trip over the metaphors here. They're everywhere. Only back in 1977, we believed them.
Last night on Turner Classic Movies, we watched *The Land That Time Forgot" from 1975. Although this movie left an indelible mark on my memory, I hadn’t seen it since that first time in 1977 with my Kentucky cousins in our hometown of Roy, New Mexico.
Mary McCray Apr 2014
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 12, 2014)

Can poetry survive? Can we survive as poets?
There are more poets than tigers or black rhinos.
There are more readers of verse than Leatherback Turtles
or all of the Yangtze Finless Porpoise.

Grand Theft Auto, Strive-and-Thrive books,
Brave-New-World movie rentals—
they may have taken over living room pleasures.
But now with our tweets and submittables,

our bad poems travel fast.
The wires and workshops are still full of weedy thinkers
and word-tinkers. Maybe the distribution will change
and who makes the money, like the printing press

set the monks to the curb. The medium was always unstable.
As soon as an invention is born, it begins to die.
Don’t put all your eggs in one anthology.
Speaking of which, we’re not as big as a chicken-

processing lobby, nor our players as emboldened
as enthusiasts visiting Comic-Con. But we’re full of deviance
and underground custom, perfectly respectable as a cult:
religious, novel, obsessively durable.
Mary McCray Apr 2013
When he lays down
sushi on the pallet
it exhales a sigh

Paddle into rice
damp, caking sea
warm in the throat

Glistening with meditation
flesh of reds and white
dead beauty on wood

Using fingers
I am a bear and a wolf
stained with salt and soy
Obviously I am hungry for some sushi today.
Mary McCray Apr 2014
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 2, 2014)

God couldn’t be everywhere so he invented…
old-testament guilt, judgment. Surrogate mothers,
an imperfect second to ever-presence.

He is mysterious, withholding.
She is threatening to write
daily—manifestos, depositions,
your biography, threatening
the tell-all proverb.

Sentimental menace, righteous and verbose
with her Saran Wrap of affection.
She is threatening to love and to be loved.
Mary McCray Apr 2013
An unrhymed Pindaric

“Either be wholly slaves or wholly free.”
-- John Dryden

I. Strophe**

Free verse, you are my original verse, my birth voice,
music of my inheritance, placenta full
of breath and heartbeats, my riotous word maps
shred of the rules of the patriarchy, the white
old world. Self reliance is All American, I say;
I say what I mean like daggers on blood stains, scientific
particularity, embellished with the subversive, diabolical
enjambment, a soothsayer and a liar, a sister assumed
in the interruption, a sister resolved
in the final line.

II. Antistrophe

But you can spin out in an open lot.
Who’s to say a sister can’t mark out her own
shape—skinny, fat, fit to be *******?
Who’s to say she can’t be obscure, obtuse, coquettish
with a song and dance or with raw, pickled reason?
There’s more to ****** than some two-faced
enjambs. There’s the rhetorics of ******* and assuming
you invented the knife. Can we just cut the game
of its gangrene?  Smelly history, politics,
and idolatry?

III. The Stand

I take back the music; I will sing badly in my parlor,
set a line with a waltz or a moon dance.
I refuse to relinquish my words to the tyranny of English.
I refuse to relinquish my words to the tyranny of me.
I take back all shapes (if they flatter me) and mathematics.
I take back the agenda nailed to the wall,
refusing to relinquish my self to the tired old generals
of either side. I take back the third waves of the entire sea
and shitbox and I take back the almighty decision
of which witch is which.
Trying the Pindaric Ode today but with some love shown to my freestyle.
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 4, 2015)

The Curse of Knowledge: When better informed people find it extremely difficult to think about a problem from the perspective of lesser informed people.

Bayesian Conservatism: Tendency to revise one’s beliefs insufficiently when presented with new evidence.

All is fair in football
Teams of politics

The mindless zombie
Who craves mindfulness

Disbelieve the curse or misunderstand after belief
Alienated enlightenments on an abandoned playground

Well educated well read suspicious book
Big eye of the magnifying glass

Suspicious laboratory evidence  
Emotional ax

Einstein Frankenstein
The blue screen of death

Warped windows ***** windows  
Confederate flag covering the entire window

Hourglass hang the end of days

The program of empathy, operating
System of exhaling the curse

The art of politely
Serving the monster
Microsoft turns 40 years old today. Have personal computing devices given us more or less access to quality information, made us smarter or happier? Yes and no: I get to meet poets on Hello poetry but have to read vitriolic anonymous commentary after online news articles. I can self-publish but also lose phone hours on hold to service my machines. Is it a toss?
Mary McCray Apr 2013
A Donna Summer Triolet**

The disco dancer needs a singer,
a heart spasm simmering with the pulsing zeitgeist.
The sequined torch song craves a *******;
so the disco dancer needs a singer.
Giorgio-beats-per-minute, the remix has been spliced
as the belladonna exits onto the dance floor of Christ.
The disco dancer needs a singer,
a 12-inch ****** blessing the joyous zeitgeist.
Getting toward the end of my Ode Less Traveled exercises. I love triolets. Have a stack of old People Mags and today came across last year's obit for Donna Summer.
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 5, 2015)

An effect in which incompetent people fail to realize they are incompetent because they lack the skill to distinguish between competence and incompetence. Actual competence may weaken self-confidence as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding.

Who among us know who among us?
Who worries the cracks in the levy?
The suffering know. They bear the smart
of all judgments: as they know themselves,
as they know others.  While fools
blissfully devastate the latticework
of our perfections.

The Pope advocates peace for Resurrection Day,
and end to the persecution, and by the way
he means  the Kenyan dead not Christmas signage
in America. Too many opinions

will make you blind. A competent madness,
a fear of failure: songless, unable to dance,
unable to praise the dead, restore to life
the mind of the beginner who does not yet know
yet who will be grateful to know
that competence saves lives
but will it save you?
Mary McCray Apr 2014
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 24, 2014)

A few nights ago my parents and I watched an HBO movie called “Phil Spector” starring Helen Mirren, (did you know she’s the same age as Cher?), Al Pacino, (in one of his best performances IMHO), and Jeffrey Tambor, (for those fans of “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Arrested Development” and, if you’re old enough, latter-day “Three’s Company”).

The moral of Spector’s involvement in the Lana Clarkson death-story can be read as “appearances are deceptive.”

Being beautiful, being rich, being happy.

The moral of this HBO movie could be read as movies themselves are deceptive. The HBO narrative tried to tell a story about how to tell a story about reasonable doubt. The movie itself left out some pretty pertinent facts about the case, such facts as Spector’s defense team might have left out, facts that may have been used to convict Spector later on… in the part of the story the HBO movie did not tell.

Facts around the periphery and facts mingling in the mix.

(The ****** towel in the bathroom, evidence of attempts made to clean up the scene, incriminating language said to a driver and then later during questioning by police.)

Shaky, addled hands can make mistakes. But then, appearances are deceptive.

Then there was the doubt, somewhat reasonable, a kind of doubt that hovers around the line, quavering, moving both ways.

Experience would indicate that sometimes barking dogs do bite. The headless and the dog-bitten will tell you that. The infamous Wall-of-Sound gun-pointer. The boy who cries wolf often finds himself in a pickle. Or a prison.

See? I use my experience to argue a point, to “sway the jury,” in another words to “deceive.”

Reconstructions are stories are usually deceptive.

A bullet in the mouth is less so.

Whether Phil Spector murdered Lana Clarkson—that is neither here nor there. A story will not tell you that.

So then what will?
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 1, 2015)

To search for, interpret, focus on, or remember only information that confirms your preconceptions.

The solipsismal cataract, a knotted bog of shelter,
sortings of the world floating in translucent drops,
validations dissolving through your skin like
evangelical fumes: what you remember is the red flag,
the red vase, the ironic rose—because red is the mast and mascot
of your soul. Your own blushing village of Versailles—
built to suit your towering, powdered wigs. The brain works
if the ego allows. Go to the Grotto, Marie,

and listen to the flaxen minstrel,  speaker for the wise
old catfish. She is sitting to catch her breath, strumming
her catgut and similes as you stand inhaling the darkness,
remembering each side of a cloud and lampshades
on the heads of beautiful things. She brings you visions
of Wurlitzers  and coffee percolators,  things you wouldn’t know
how to look for if you’re looking too hard.  Remember your reds
until they fade away into the black of the grotto.

Come back out and try again.
30 Poems About Suffering will be based on the list of cognitive biases found on Wikipedia coupled with my mindfulness practice. I’m going to try to do an initial “bias” stanza and following it with a “mindfulness antidote” stanza.  I’m going to try to throw in something from today’s news to show the daily-ness of these (which today is the news of Joni Mitchell in the hospital).
2.1k · Apr 2019
Work Diversion
Mary McCray Apr 2019
(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.
Mary McCray Apr 2013
In a suburban, Midwestern split-level, a piano teacher (just turned thirty),
leads an eleven-year old girl and her parents down eight shagged stairs
to the piano room illuminated by backyard sunlight from a sliding glass door.
**** has infested the entire room and a polka-dot-print couch with skirt ruffles
and a low brown coffee table create a makeshift waiting area.
This is where the parents sit writing out checks (the bank president’s daughter
was denied lessons last week for paying too late, too often). A faux-wood
sign slid into a gold-trimmed stand demands Please No Smoking but it’s only 1980
and too overbearing not to offend the parents. Smoke still ascends the ashtrays
atop their classy black uprights with chipped middle Cs.
Nobody in the neighborhood but the piano teacher has a metronome.  
She wears flowered blouses and is slightly overweight in a padded movie-like way;
she has fat, muscled fingers for playing all kinds of notes.
A stubby brown piano is piled with stacks of dog-eared songbooks.
The eleven-year old slouches over the keys attempting simplified Chopin, Bach,
and “Tubular Bells” from The Exorcist, simulating her close-ups for Solid Gold.
Every year there are recital awards, a scale-shaped silver hanger or a coffee cup
with a handle fashioned like a quarter note. One year they all memorize the lives
of the composers. One year the piano teacher is pregnant by a tall, awkward,
bearded husband who practices fencing out in their backyard. Today she tells
the eleven year-old about last night’s dreams where “Christ is holding her baby.”
The parents overhear this and close their checkbooks.

For twenty minutes my father argued with her about the end of my music career.
She acquiesced in the end, saying a girl should always obey her father.
Within the year my teacher did find fame in the papers by obeying her father,
the day he commanded her to steam-clean the crimson stains on the **** carpet,
the day after he shot and stabbed and set afire that awkward, bearded, fencing man,
father of the baby that dreamed-up Jesus was so fond of. And now when she takes
the 5th, I never know if it’s that Amendment or Beethoven’s.
                                                                ­                                       Please No Murdering
the perfect melody with your bars and keys. The piano teacher went on teaching scales
and I imagine her piano is festering like a box of echo and madness, notes floating
through the sliding glass door stuck ajar. I imagine her frumpy, stomping on the stiff
damper pedal that sustains all our dreams.
I worked on a poetry workshop assignment today that asked for mostly 3rd person description until the end of the poem.
Mary McCray Apr 2014
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 10, 2014)

During dinner, while the noise of too many swimmers
deafens Mr. Kingfish, he says to his wife, Mrs. Kingfish,
“This is what happens when too many so-called ‘swimmers’
dilute the souk and gum up the lake.”

Mr. and Mrs. Kingfish dine on minnows
as she concurs, “You question their legitimacy, dear.”
“Yes I do!” “You question what swimming is
if everyone tries to do it?—

who is allowed, what value is added
by all these new “swimmers” swimming through.”
“Yes, that is what I’m saying: don’t go near the water,
until you learn how to swim!”

“They’re bottom-feeders ruining everything,”
decides Mr. Kingfish. His wife squeezes his arm
and says, “Then let’s get small, dear.
There’s entirely too much swimming going on all around.”

“We need gatekeepers, tighter schools,” cries Mr. Kingfish,
“or we’ll all suffocate!” Spitting out tiny fish heads in the sand,
Mrs. Kingfish assures her husband, “All will be well that ends well.
But I do wonder, love, what about the turning tide?”
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 29, 2015)

The phenomenon where people justify increased investment in a decision, based on the cumulative prior investment, despite new evidence suggesting that the decision was probably wrong. Also known as the sunk cost fallacy.

The Donner Party refusing to stay put,
Mark Twain’s  four million dollar investment
in the Paige Compositor, an early automatic
typesetting machine, Paige taking Twain’s money
for 14 years while other machines prevailed.

A project of biases like this.

It is the broken heart bias, the grit bias.
Tenacity like a tin ear. The fellow who completes
what he has, ******, set out for.

Does it take decades anymore? Months across
the mountain pass? A lie you tell yourself
as fast as a tweet?

In times like these a robot could grab it—
your timely mistake and capitalize
your catastrophes . No leak. No hack.
No time to adjust to fortune’s funny ironies.

What happens too fast, what happens slow and long—
there’s always a spot of space to stop for,
time to consider time itself in your hand
with its diamond faces. What are you doing
and should you not pivot slightly to the side?
Twitter just lost $4 billion dollars due to an untimely tweet:
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 18, 2015)

Rhyming statements are perceived as more truthful. A famous example being used in the O.J. Simpson trial with the defense’s use of the phrase, “If the gloves don’t fit, then you must acquit.”

The carriage of craft glitters in meaning
provide there’s a meter we can sing to the ceiling.

When cooperative verses are ******* and buckled
our sense, intelligence will never be cuckold.

Music mechanics bestow faith in the word
whenever rotten fish cannot smell the ****.
Today on YouTube, muppet Elmo encourages all kids (and muppets) to get vaccinations. (Doing said without rhyming).
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 8, 2015)

Overestimating one’s desirable qualities, and underestimating undesirable qualities, relative to other people. (Also known as “Lake Wobegon effect,” better-than-average effect,” or “superiority bias”).

The case of Cyberface, the idea of you,
selfies with Kardashian and Kayne

settling the score with paparazzi
front of the line, past the line, whisked

your journals and micro-journals
pieces of flesh, phantoms

publicity is the new city
smiling Joker, the Hollywood real,

the need to be the great American novel
“special” on the bib under baby’s puke

the chord of horror at confession:
You Are Average

ruins so fierce it makes your eye twitch
ashes so raw you believe in miracles

more than you believe in yourself
and your lovely, opening ordinary.
Kayne West just settled a suit for assaulting paparazzi. In related news there’s a $20 new version of the Bible replacing every mention of God with Kanye West.
Mary McCray Apr 2013
Real success indicators*

- Skill in the persuasive negotiations of terms, a kind of sedimentary geological persuasion
- Ability to conjure Oprah behind closed doors, talk downs
- Proficiency in juggling fire
- Possessing the gift of grasping the bigger picture metaphysically, spiritually on Sundays
- Facility with the in-crowd, a knack for small talk in lunch lines
- Talent for producing imaginative and influential spin for both external and internal corporate communications
- Competence in project management and setting expectations, ballet dancing
- Aptitude in translating poor self-esteem into long work hours
- Capacity for taking sh
t at all levels of the disorganization
Continuation of yesterday's experience with aptitude tests from recruiters and, while at work today, thinking about the real quantifiable job skills.
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 3, 2015)

Misattribution. Imagination mistaken for memory.

False memory that there were little pink teacups on my twelve-month birthday cake.

False memory that there were maleficent masks iron-worked into the bars of my crib.

False memory of my wedding after the photographs took over.

False memory of watching Bob Saget do standup on cable TV with Nellie and Donna and this being long before Full House ever started.  

False memory of everything my mother said never happened.

The past is partial and true and untrue; partially there and not there.

Chords of our mind in wet knots and dry brittle knots and eroding.

Theorists would have it be all or nothing: why hold on to the vapor of the past?

Why cherish what is ultimately ungraspable?

But the solid ground was built by the past.

But the solid ground has sinkholes.

Walk carefully. Walk slowly. Feel the ground under the palms of your feet.

Feel the tremor of the now before your memory takes it away.
News today: Netflix announced plans to bring back a *Full House* reunion show.  This daily news is the hardest part of this weird challenge. It’s hard to be abstract and work in Bob Saget. And ironically by using the now, the present moment, it ruins the vibe.
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,
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.
Mary McCray Apr 2013
She was kneading the crevice
under my left shoulder blade with a forefinger
which had a tremor when she pushed hard
or “did anything with intention.”
Said it was only her right finger, a family trait,
(honestly, not an ineffectively way to argue
with a muscle).

I could hear the voice of an old man on a table
behind the curtain. His relaxation was a confession,
(maybe the knee **** response to premeditated touch),
and I was like the otherwise engaged
priest. There was a surgery
and he was eight years addicted to pain
pills. One-hundred days sober now,
getting self care, (as Oprah would say),
he was enjoying his wife’s cooking again,
looking forward to some ice fishing
out at Eagle’s Nest, (something
he hadn’t done for 10 years).

“The canyon bowl is so quiet,” he said.
“Even if you don’t catch any fish,
you'd be content to sit there all day.”
“It’s Zen-like,” he said, “the ice caps
surrounding you, the elk and the coy-oats
frolicking out there on the ice.”
(Not with each other I presume.)
The old man’s masseuse
was a young man who never said a word
except, “Is the pressure too much?”

“It’s not like I have respect,”
the old man on the table continued,
“for those who get addicted to illicit drugs.
But now I have a great respect for the pain
they go through.” His masseuse and my masseuse
went on kneading.
“At least I have a life to go back to.”
Doing this week's workshop class assignment: a lyric narrative. This is a completely found poem, overheard verbatim while I was getting a massage last week.
Mary McCray Apr 2014
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 29, 2014)

There is no honor among words
but they are criminally necessary.

Fools rush the line
where auteurs fear to tread.

He who hesitates writes haiku—believing
description is the better part of valor.

Thieves will tell you no news is good news
because most con men are theorists,

stealing us up, ransacking testimonies.
They have left us only fears.

And fear of the word cliché
is worse than the cliché itself.
Mary McCray Apr 2014
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 23, 2014)

Every bird loves to hear himself sing:
poet as broken sparrow full of pitiful sorrow;
poet as proud cardinal, tight and righteous;
poet as bald eagle, impractically clichéd;
poet as California Condor unable to land;
poet as grouse (formal grouse, lyric grouse, the avant-garde);
poet as vulture feeding on the system;
poet as parrot squawking down the red carpet;
poet as crow, loudly erroneous;
poet as warbler, precise, lilting and endangered;
poet as the high-necked goose, ugly, deluded;
poets of the weather describing the heather,
birds of a feather endorsing each other.
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 15, 2015)

Based on the estimates, real-world evidence turns out to be less extreme than our expectations.

We never find werewolves
where werewolves meet
or correctly gauge the collapse
of collapsible things.
Monsters in the cellar
rifling through our things.
The big boom— cringe and tuck,
and one-eyed peek.
Cycles of melodrama and hyperbole—
Utopia, a big tax return,
the end of days.

Scanning the glut of galaxies
no one is scanning back.
We inhale this universe
alone, merely getting by.
And then a gray whale
sets a world record
for a migrating distance.
And such things are set
by increment,
by step. Was our whale

looking for alien whales?
Worried about the judgment
and collapse? Or manhandled
deep-sea paraphernalia?
A whale is just
relocating to evade the mass
of oceanic trash.

Artfully thinking
Huff Post reports today that both that a gray whale set a migrating record and scientists scanned 100,000 galaxies and found no signs of life.
Mary McCray Apr 2013
For Valerie Harper**

You come into my house with your panache and polyester wraps.
You move across my floor with a defiant flow: the tips of your head
scarves and cresting bell-bottom sails. You are stubborn
like a lithe Lou and smartly sarcastic like your short
and **** Ida, like the heartache mothers and daughters
hand back and forth. You are New York
like a downstairs Indian eatery. You push me into trouble
when you call from the dates of the Me decade.
You show me your anger and your sweet new resignations.
You cover me like a new coat from the striking windows
of Hempel's. You are the most beautiful of all of us
and you let the Teds and Murrays of this world slowly
come to understand this. Although purple and warm
and Mediterranean with those door beads, your attic
is not where you will hide at the end.
You will be out on the sidewalks of Minneapolis
sitting in a chair shaking hands,
sitting in a chair and singing with me.
Today I wanted to express my sadness at the medical prognosis for Valerie Harper and to say how much I love one of my best TV-friends ever, Rhoda Morgenstern.
Mary McCray Apr 2014
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 5, 2014)

There are theories about skin cells and exfoliation.
There are theories about heart veins and salt.
There are theories about caffeine and butter and nightshades.
There are theories about wine, an apple a day.
There are theories about the brain and biofeedback.
There are theories about feet and reflexology.
There are theories about the alignment of the skeleton.
There are theories about massage, God, and voodoo.
There are theories about how to raise children and cats.
There are theories about pantsuits.
There are theories about autism and the stock market.
There are theories about the metabolism and gain without pain.
There are theories about bathing and the Brussels sprout.
There are theories about jazz.
There are theories about the method.
There are theories about biographies and metaphor.
There are theories about the histories of history.
There are theories about watercolors.
There are theories about poetry
and there are poetry theories.
And then there’s Chinese medicine.
Mary McCray Apr 2014
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 21, 2014)

She was offended by the Day of the Dead;
she was offended by the night of the crystals;
she was offended by Henry Rollins;
she was offended by an old man in our office;
she was offended by the waiter and Shannon;
she was offended by the idea of homosexuality
as anything but a lifestyle choice;
she was offended we didn’t agree;
she was offended by Cher in a sari
but not Cher in a war bonnet;
she was offended we didn’t like the President;
she was offended by the kids from her old high school;
she was offended by parking restrictions;
she would be offended I’m telling you this now
although she discarded items from aisle four into the shelves of aisle six
making the claim she was giving the little people job security;
even though she said, because I was robbed, my peoples
were low-rent peoples. This all begs the question
as to why she does not do unto others inoffensively.
Meanwhile, we each lay in the trenches of our sensibilities.
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 25, 2015)

The tendency to judge harmful actions as worse, or less moral, than equally harmful omissions.

The tendency to persuade oneself through rational argument that a purchase was a good value.

It's late at night and I'm forty years into a very thorough and consumerist collection of the vast ouvre of Cherilyn Sarkisian, 60s street urchin turned enshrined Hollywood A-lister -- iconic up there with Halston, Bianca, Liz and Jackie.

Paper and vinyl and electromagnetic tape, discs and cassettes and books and blankets and dolls and perfumes and magnets. Words and music and ideas every one purchased from corporations and strangers and seven 7-inch picture discs bartered online from a friend I didn't know I would one day meet.

It's late and I've been the Wrecking Crew premiere, sitting in the middle
of an Albuquerque scene of sorts,  the documentary opening at the local art house with me wedged between California-Sound fanatics. I'm sitting next to an oldies DJ everybody in town seems to knows but me.

The DJ laments how political the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is, (but then aren't they all?), and how Chubby Checker has yet to be inducted. As I see Cher self-depricate through the movie, I know she's an outsider to even this outsider culture. And if we peruse the halls rosters, we can easily make her case. But omissions always mean something. My basement full of memorabilia tells me what ain't right. But that's the bias talking. The same bias that gets The Byrds inducted, those who we've just learned didn't even play on their own records, or the theatrics of Alice Cooper, or the season of Ricky Nelson, or the artifice of KISS, Madonna....I've spent a fortune but just wait until the book comes out.

Post-purchase rationalizations, aren't they all?
Go see The Wrecking Crew movie. Went to the Q and A tonight to listen to stories of directory Denny Todesco.
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 24, 2015)

*The tendency for people to place a disproportionately high value on objects that they partially assembled themselves, such as furniture from IKEA, regardless of the quality of the end result.:

My press-board dresser is a found poem.
Partly not-me but traces of my DNA
all over the ideas of wood.

Pointing to it I say:
this is me, something more
than nothing.

It is my romantic grain to cherish this,
to value the mass produced artifice
alongside the singular sensation.

One. Many. Me. Them.
What’s it all worth?
Bullies of values poke us

to tears and craft and craftiness.
LA street art disparaged by NYC
fashionistas. Let us drill down

the spur of all gangland critique.
Face the mural as it lays. Park the car,
face the plane and listen

to what every one is saying,
even if it’s nothing but
a minute reclaimed.
Good article on LA Street Art:
Mary McCray Apr 2014
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 28, 2014)

It takes 2 to tango
1 to lead and 1 to twirl
1 to catch the falling

U the crazy and U the sane—
who teaches whom?

It takes 2 to tango, 2 to waltz
getting nowhere

It takes at least 2
to do the Boot Scootin’ Boogie
they are frayed around the edges
but done 4
the energy discharged
by those many arms and legs

Jazz hands!

2 heads R better
4 eyes R better
4 feet R better
to read with than one

more emoting, more plummeting,
more butter in the cookie

weak link in the telephone game
ineffectual spy
gumshoe detective

Jazz hands!

bygones are never bitter
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 13, 2015)

The tendency for people to want to believe that the world is fundamentally just, causing them to rationalize an otherwise inexplicable injustice as deserved by the victims.

All is fair in love and war and making excuses
for your team. But there is no such evildoings
for our guy, our statesman and quarterback
who wears red and blue, for whom no bell tolls.

Winning trumps offering and the ends justify
what we need them to justify. We rally
on consecrated field, behind the hallowed squad
of our heroic puffery.  In World War II,

my young great uncle was finished
by a German ******, himself  a hero
to his team. Propaganda is only something
the Other one does, those cheaters at chess

sneaking plays in dark corners. Not us;
we win justly, thanking our Gods. The losers
starving, ignored, burned alive
like the lot of the poets.
Georgian chess star Gaioz Nigalidza was caught cheating during his recent match, sneaking off the to bathroom to run a chess app from a smart phone stuck hidden in a roll of toilet paper.
Mary McCray Apr 2013
Childhood is a small town in Labyrinth County
with brothers and sisters and cousins, big-kid games
beyond the porch. Grandfolks sending you off into the fray.
Heather with her wavy hair, bellbottoms and confident wiles,
held the key to the perfect girl, unlocking boys
she could take and own. Me, little cousin
with doe eyes for such starlings who could perch
in the middle of cross streets, in the palm of the world.
With the eyes of heirs, she was witness to the secret
map of her life, the way in, the way out, the whole ranch.
Soon she was riding with the older kids
in cars I could not catch. Too fast and far ahead,
they would not be followed by me anymore.

In a few years I stepped off the porch myself
onto unfamiliar streets, out of this town and the next,
cobbled together my own grid of streets, stood at the outskirts
to find the plains are an open field without a road or sign.
And because the earth is round, all streets circle back
to this town decades later, past cemeteries
and emptied-out gas stations. Why are they thin
and pale and I am fat with the dew of the apple?
What do I know?

I have become tired of my speculating
on how we all arrived: Heather is wilted and dry
from years in a window. I try to tell the story
about Heather in the palm of it, all the roads
that followed Heather. Her schemes, her dreams,
the labyrinth of grass,
the labyrinth of cockamamie,
the labyrinth of unfortunate results.
And here nobody had the treasure.
Nobody found the buried key.
Nobody found the directions behind the directions.
If they had waited, looked me in the face and asked me,
could I have told them what I have found?

No, you can’t follow anymore around these streets,
the future is a myth and times a **** shame everywhere.

Do the dead who love us know?
Worked on my workshop assignment today, a poem about directions and journeys.
1.5k · Apr 2017
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:
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.
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 19, 2015)

Sometimes called the “I-knew-it-all-along” effect, the tendency to see past events as being predictable at the time those events happened.

Today—no question what we would talk about:
L’entrée de Barry Manilow, or as the French say,
Faire son coming out, as if homosexualité

was Americain. You know, like the French
used to say making love in the English way
while the English were saying making love

in the French way. Meanwhile my own closet
of 33 rpms and fan-club letters and all those
barroom assertions. Is he? Isn’t he?

What is the nature of his love? So benevolent
to his fans, surprising them at the piano
of their houses, the spotlight of polite

amid rock and roll infamy. This hindsight
bias is tricky: "At the time." Since when?
Every moment to the now we speak of it.

The was that made the is to be: we will argue this
to our thrones. Like literary ironies of thigh master,
controversial poet of the bedroom farce,

Krissy Snow and her gentle flurry of confession.
Zaftig fans with their quinquagenarian chest pains.
Fantasy is always predictable. It never was.

They are screaming like Beatlemaniacs.
The happy hour question left for us now:
What is the nature of their love?
Huff Post reported that Barry Manilow was outed yesterday by his friend Suzanne Somers.
Mary McCray Apr 2014
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 16, 2014)

Words sink into the mud
Lonesome sounds caves cannot ear
Memory sinking
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 28, 2015)

The urge to do the opposite of what someone wants you to do out of a need to resist a perceived attempt to constrain your freedom of choice.

Devaluing proposals only because they are purportedly originated with an adversary.

Adversaries: we imagine them up
like dime store villains. The heroic "I"
discharging bullets at the caprock
until a quake tips the mudslide.
This is what we say when we say
the hero and the villain are one.
Violence is just or unjust;
the hangman is the madman.

Depends upon who holds the axe.
Depends on our reckoning
of your freedom and any estimations
on mine. There is no reason to it.
Only rationales and riots of biases,
sentiments knotted up in the noose,
the ethical choker worn to glisten
in the pageant, worn to crucify,
worn to suffocate.
Nepalese earthquake is causing mudslides today and riots continue in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray.
Mary McCray Apr 2014
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 30, 2014)

Poetry up all night
unwrapping gifts,
a marathon of unwrapping,
unfolding, untaping,
dodging the gaps
or the bonds
(as is your temper)
over this whole box.
Feline curiosity,
don't count your chickens yet.
Chickens! Don’t you know
money is everything.
Motivates everything.
This even when
the best things in life
are these unwrapping
moments with our feline hands.
The more that come—
come with a fine price,
that long-short day of joy.
Cool little cat,
Christmas comes only once.
That is the day all the best
of friends must embrace and say
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 30, 2015)

The tendency to see oneself as less biased than other people, or to be able to identify more cognitive biases in others than oneself.

These are the vents of my being a self.
I am aware of my twain selves.

I witness the movie that is my life.

My atoms mingle with the worlds atoms.
My slutty atoms.

My feet ache. My chest hurts.
I suffer, therefore I am.

But then I forget I exist
and that this movie is me.

My own self has sold me out.
Genetically modified me.
Made me over with mascara.

The building blocks of me
are ancient. I duly notice
all my hot air.

I suitably put on the suit
and cling to the suit.

The suit sticks to me like an ad campaign.

I constantly need new technology
to explain me to me

when the new version is launched.
America is ceaseless newfangled versioning.

I am dying
but I don’t know where I am.
Jeesh that was rough! Exhausted with this year’s project! Today's news: undersea vents brought building blocks of life to earth planet:
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 12, 2015)

They say a Diné rug will have a flaw in the weave,
a broken line somewhere at the edge.
Rio Grande Valley pottery has the same,
an inside line that never meets its other line.
They say this flaw keeps the evil spirit out.

Two days ago we left home for a cabin in Red River,
left all our plans by mistake on the floor,
our directions and orchestrations, the big intent.
And on the highway near Tesuque I felt a longing
to gather the trail back and an ache to make it right:

the flaw in the cabin floor,
the flaw in the pond,
the flaw in the mountain,
the flaws in the book of ghosts,
their stories gaping in the array
of what could be the managed,
flawless, perfect.

This interruption in the line, the sting
of disturbance wore away slowly in the waves
of landing geese, in the wagging tails of the dogs
chasing ducks and the dome of morning over the pond.

This is the flaw that keeps you honest;
the flaw that keeps you breathing;
the living flaw that is everything
about trying. The flaw is the light
wrestling you out of the dark.
When I went to Red River Friday, I left my list of biases for this project at home. Our cabin also had no wireless. However, my iPhone 3G was working. Yesterday I was determined to pull up Wikipedia and at least peck out a haiku. But then I wondered if I should just let the poem go. This really confronted my obsessive need to try my best to "fix it." And this is why the missing poem was the hardest poem.
Mary McCray Apr 2014
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 13, 2014)

Time flies around a storybook story.
After storytime, it’s time to go to sleep.
After sleep, tomorrow begins another story.
Inside the storybook, every picture tells a story.
Not everybody agrees what that story is.
Narrative is just an illusion anyway,
One made necessary for the operation
Of storybooks, some with only pictures telling
Stories, some with impossible surmising captions.
First think, then speak. Unless you don’t believe
In talking bears or thneeds. When you grow up,
Narratively speaking, you should grow out the-need
To believe in a happy end-middle-beginning.
You should rip up every page in the storybook
And throw its pieces up into the air.
The interesting story is how it all falls down.
First things first. Why does this always feel
Like the ruse of 52-card pickup?
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 2, 2015)

The tendency to overestimate the degree to which others agree with you.

Hanging something out there like a smelly fish
and nobody bites—
not even the meandering line of fishermen
who escort you to the definition of skunk eye—

I do this is poetry all the time.

The diminutive brains of fish—
swimming in fallacies of reason
swimming in fallacies of belief
swimming in the truth—
the water never changes.

The water just dries up
while Californians vote and vote and vote.
For the first time in California's history, Governor Brown will enforce water sanctions due to the state's lengthy drought. What could be more pertinent than the never-ending ballot initiatives put upon Californian voters, so much the definition of false consensus that proposition scribes resort to machiavellian language to confuse voters.
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 20, 2015)

The tendency to give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of your personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for you, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. For example, horoscopes.

P.T. Barmum’s boxcar of fortune tellers, religions and personality tests
predict I may be inadvertently pressuring someone.
I may be inadvertently over-extended. I need to be proactive
and not be proactive in taking on more than I can handle.
However, the sun is in my Professional house
which may affect my relationships. I blame this on my Gemini.

People suspect he’s holding out on them.
(That would be me.)
His problem will continue if he continues to stonewall.
(That’s right.)
If he throws someone a bone, that will buy him sometime.

Nothing is any good in the long run.
Something is always changing.
You never give yourself credit for being specific enough.
Based on my horoscopes today from SF Gate and Huffington Post (Women's section)
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 17, 2015)

A vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) is perceived as significant, e.g., seeing images of animals or faced in clouds, the man on the moon, and hearing non-existant hidden messages on records played in reverse.

Mysticism is felt in the heart muscle, rustles
where no feelings truly exist. What exists
of the dead voice hollering on the recording? Ordering
the apparition’s dances under the light beam. What seems
like God is deep in the conspiracy, the marvelous irony
of mirage. Brain eats signs; feet seek sense, pearl innocence.
The ghost is the illusionist, an enthusiast
who will never reveal his true forming mist. What exists?
But in the center of the sit-and-spin, you sit within
the vault of kaleidoscope pointers, confusing spoilers.
When you cannot stand you will understand
the significance of the word shaper…who waivers.
UK tabloid the Daily Mirror reports ghost video footage from a restaurant in Leeds called Get Baked;
1.3k · Apr 2016
Lunes for the Loons
Mary McCray Apr 2016
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 1, 2016)

Pitchforks gather,
Chinese made,
The red embroideries.

Autocrats swagger
Bile hyperboles.

And wicked blather
The soul amputees.
Following the prompts this year!
Mary McCray Apr 2015
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 7, 2015)

Limits a person to using an object only in a way it is traditionally used.

In one hotel, two kids climb over a triangle
of lobby couches. Their father grips a shoulder
in an argument of parenting and says,
“Use things for their intended purpose!”
A reasonable idea but in retrospect
it depends on how you look at the thing,
directly on or akimbo.  

The father scowls at me as if to say
Don’t be that guy, the one who sees
a rowboat, a vertical slice of bus,
the basket for an air balloon,
a trampoline when the cushions are off,
mountain range for little figurines lost in the snow,
an architectural element of a tent city,
multi-purpose home base,
a landing pad for the dizzy spinners,  
a secretarial desk, a dog bed,
a nap bed, a make-out bed, a death bed,
a kiosk to display collections of items,
a staging area, a folding spot,
the place where one sits difficult relatives,
the dais where Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane makes a stand
in Dukes of Hazzard reenactments,
a pew, a sanctuary, a habit, a place of soliloquy,
a place of meditation, a place of revelation,
yard sale seating, lawn trash down by the road,
a bird’s nest, a rain gauge,
a place to sit.
James Best, the sheriff of *The Dukes of Hazzard,* has passed away at 88.
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 2, 2017)

A fresh attitude (sautéed with butter and either garlic or onions) is hard to find in certain climates. Serve with any choice of greens.

Folded like divinity with pure cane syrup.
½ Tbsp of honey drizzled in the pan.
To caramelize is entirely your option.
Peel 6 or 7 tenets and shred.
Add a pinch of the herb mixture on page 11.
Knead out the narrow of the marrow.
Start to fricassee some fresh foliage.
Do not pare down or skim the concoction—
You will starve the recipe and the starter will fail.
Toss in some mettle instead.
Let the mix marinate overnight, uncovered.
Have a cooling rack handy to the side.
There will be stewing. There will be steam.
Add the hot sauce of your municipality.

This soul *** is a food staple worldwide.
Serves 7.49 billion.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a recipe poem.
1.3k · Apr 2016
The Sonnet of Soda
Mary McCray Apr 2016
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 6, 2016)

The not-smell of pop fiz on ice
stimulating the hairs in the nose,
caffeine coolness so far down a throat
it touches the brain, frees the sinus
in a chemo-corporate embrace.
The soda jerks are calling for shares
of my stomach, even the crenelated
linings, even the misled calorie,
even the sorrowful marrow of the bone.
Consider the mitochondrial malaise of this,
the very ******-pathological thirst
that kills what we need.
Yesterday I came across a great article called "Instagram and the Cult of the Attention Web: How the Free Internet is Eating Itself" ( about the Internet's increasing dependency on our attention and how Coca Cola is literally talking about shares of stomachs.
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