Category Archives: Mary Poems

30/30 Project: The Poison Control Issue


woodpecker eating poison ivy

It’s poem #18 in my March Poetry Marathon!  Today the Pileated Woodpecker is back in my neighborhood.  Whenever I hear him, I feel like he is trying to tell me something.  I feel lucky.  I also feel similarly blessed when a cardinal flies in front of me, or I see a hawk several days in a row.  I’ve read that it’s just our human ego acting up when we feel important in the face of animal activity.  I’m also familiar with Native American beliefs about spirit animals and such.  I think I lean toward the latter.  We’re all in this together, the birds and us.  At any rate, my red-headed pal never fails to inspire a poem.  See?  Lucky!

Remember, if you like what you’re reading, be sure to hop (fly?) on over to the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project site and read all of the awesome marathon-poetry being written.  And donate.  Do it!  Please.

Mary Kneels in the Garden

She is prepared for plants out of place,
weeds to follow.
Lady of the Dandelion. Mother of the Lion’s Teeth.

The other women cultivate
neat bushes,
grow showy cacti on their perfect lawns.

To eat what is not meant to be eaten.
To swallow
the hairy stem, the jagged leaf.

Ask the woodpecker why she leaves
her nest,
why she gorges on the ivy. She will tell you

about the beauty of the berry, the joy
of running a tongue
over a living thing, thick and white and round.

Toxicodendron radicans.
the hairy arms, the hands with narrow fingers,

the fine golden hair. Poison as seasonal,
poison as lover vining your trunk,
creeping toward your throat. Your obituary

a record of children hidden in the heart
in a dying tree,
an urge to devour, a case of mistaken identity.

You will never be the loud bird, the thrumming bird.
Make love to the worms,
the larvae and harmless seeds. From your waste, beauty.


30/30 Project: The Ides of March Version


Ah, the Ides of March.  A day filled with trepidation, if you go in for that sort of thing.  It has been kind of a funky one, here, but, once again, poetry saves me!  And the milkman, of course.  Gotta love the milkman.

If you are enjoying the Mary series, why not stop by and thank Tupelo Press with a teeny, tiny donation?  It’s all their doing, you know, this deluge of all poems Mary!




The True Story of Mary and the Spilled Milk

It always begins in half-light,
silent houses curled on their sides,

grass poised to resume its steady thrust.
This is the soft hour she likes best,

before morning pours its cereal
and soles pick up where they left off.

In these see-through moments,
she walks the neighborhood,

making love to what goes on
just past the coupling shutters.

When you are a mother you see
what the other women do not:

rough hands cupping hips,
full lips falling like rain.

You hear babies slip
through open crib rails,

hear men sigh
in something like sleep.

Oh, Queen of the Gaze.
Oh, Lady of Streetlamp Eyes.

You are not here to help them,
only to look in their empty windows,

practice their intimate gestures.
Tomorrow you may wish them well.

30/30 Project Day 12: And Now a Word From the Pope


It would be awfully cool if the voices in my head would put on heavy black robes and red beanies, then disappear into a locked room, only to send up white smoke when my latest poem is completed.  Alas, it is all me–the girl who doesn’t own a little black dress (or heavy black robe), a red beanie, or a room that one of my children doesn’t know how to unlock with a butter knife.

pope and maryIt is with this admission that I present my latest in the Mary series, and my 12th poem as part of the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project.  Have you donated yet?  It is truly a worthy cause, and every $5, $10 or $50 will help keep a wonderful indie press in business.  And did you know about their $99 subscription deal?  9 books for $99.  You can’t beat it.  Check it out!  (And if you subscribe, tell them you heard it here!)

So, the poem.  My dear friend Dan Wilcox donated to Tupelo in my name and requested a poem about the Pope.  Funny thing, Dan, I have been vaguely following this whole papal process and have found it very poetic.  Problem is, I’m not sure what I make of it.  I love the idea of waiting for white smoke to send us a message.  (I think I’d like to invent a cell phone that emits a puff of white smoke each time I have a new message.)  I also love the solemnity, the tradition, and the secrecy.   And I am fascinated by the maleness of it all.

I am not convinced the Pope has said enough to Mary.  Mary might need to reply.  Jill might need to learn a little more about popes and priests and nuns and such.  Until then…

The Pope Writes a Letter to Mary

Was it the ghosts in long lines
outside our lonely bedroom,
the fingers in your hair,
the hands at your gorgeous throat?

I made of you a painting,
my empty canvas,
my virgin easel,
my uterus tipped with gold.

The other women said stallion,
said knight, bishop, king,
said your man, your man, your man.

My sweet Pinocchio
you lied to the puppet maker
told him you loved his hammer,
his chisel, his hand woven strings.

Your voice a broken doorbell,
the knocking I couldn’t hear.
Who’s there?
Who’s there?

Remember me in a curl of white smoke,
a signature disguised in a tattoo,
a red feather dropped as a cardinal passes.

30/30 Project Lucky 7: The Handyman Version


There is something to be said for beginning a daily writing practice.  I know, I know.  I’ve sung this tune before.  I wish I remembered the words.  Each time I set off down the “I’m going to write a-poem-a-day” road, I am pleasantly surprised by how, once I start writing, the poems keep coming.  It’s the “if you build it, they will come” theory of poetry.

Likewise, and this happened with my dear June Cleaver poems, now that I have opened up the portal for Mary to speak to me, she just keeps popping up in the strangest places, with the most interesting ideas.  Take today’s morning message, for instance.  Well, I can’t really explain it.  Maybe the poem will.

Please don’t forget to take a minute to stop by the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project blog.  There are some mighty fine poems being written!


fridge pic


Mary Buys the Refrigerator Repairman Flowers

The other women say she is lucky
to have a man come to her house
at all, say the tools are a bonus.

He says he is a good man,
and she believes him—
the heavy boots, the scent of restoration.

She has spent a long time being a mother,
knows how to lean in a doorway,
how to hand over the right wrench,
how to kneel and be thankful.

He tells her he will see
if she has power,
if her couplings are poor,
if she has any resistance.
This is the electricity portion of our house call.

Mother of the Ice Box.
Mother Most Frozen.
Mother with a Tiny Light Inside.

While his head is in the freezer
take out your kitchen scissors,
trim your dying bouquet.
Strip the stems, slice the old thorns,
pull off each brittle petal until only your face remains.

Oh, Queen of Handymen.
Oh, Blessed Homemaker.
Your lips and eyes in the crevice of an ice jam.

30/30 Project Day 5: Dear Garbage Truck Driver…


forgive me for cutting you off, and to the nice man driving a tan pickup, sorry for veering into your lane.  You see, Mary was dictating a poem to me this morning on my way to work.  I had to type it into my phone.  Or you know what would happen…poof!  No more poem!

Since I began writing a poem a day, and yes, it has only been five days, but since I began, the ideas have been coming fast & furious.  Having a theme from a friend (thanks, Diana!) was a whole new level of inspiring.   Taking notes from an insistent muse on the way to teach a Composition class, then being unable to find quiet time until 8:00 pm at night, well, that has been another kind of inspiring. However, I did it.  So, I guess I showed me.

* Note (mostly to self): The ending I have posted here is different from the one I sent to Tupelo for their 30/30 Project Blog. I am having a hard time leaving them as drafts.


Mary Writes a Prayer

Because love of my life has a nice ring to it.
Because love of my lie had already been written.
Because want without song

is ugly need,
unwashed hair,
worm dried to twine on the pavement.

Prayer of the second date.
of the unwashed window,
of the sheets frozen on a clothes line.

Prayer to ward off Good Time Charlie.
Prayer for a sailor, a port, a sturdy vessel.
Crush your compass under foot,

rip the needle from its center
thread holes in stones
thread holes in bones

the click
the clack
beads on veins like wire.

Oh Lady of Leaving.
Oh Lady of Left.
Oh Lady Already Gone.

Mary, Mary write a prayer,
lead us through the final verse.

30 / 30 Project: A Poem for My Pal Diana


How excited was I this morning when I woke up to an email from my friend Diana, donating to my Tupelo Press 30 Poems in 30 Days Project, and providing me with a prompt!  A poem immediately started percolating in my mind (even before the coffee), then I sat down to write it.  And holy guacamole…it is nerve wracking trying to write a poem for a friend.  Who knew?  I mean, I like Diana.  And I want her to keep liking me.  So I had to make this A Good Poem.  Ay-yi-yi.

I set my timer for 45 minutes because I had to get out the door and volunteer at my daughter’s book fair.  Not enough time.  I went from the book fair to my studio to teach an art class…and couldn’t wait to get home and work on my poem.  Another ah-ha moment.  When one has a poetry goal, one looks forward to writing.  Again–who knew?

What follows is my poem.  I will call it a rough draft, because it’s still not good enough for Diana.  But it’s a start!


Mary Goes Below the Surface

For Diana McGrath

Frozen lake, after sunset, across a sheet of ice,
Mary searches for the other women.
All her life she has tried to fit in,
worn beautiful robes,
whispered sweetened prayers,
feasted on suitors and saviors.

She has heard it is a different world
down below: slick of seaweed between the legs,
thick lips and silken scales,
mermaids for wet nurses,
fine ocean views.

Like most virgins, Mary believes she is stalking the divine,
forgets her swimsuit, her air tank,
her bright orange life vest.
She is on her own in this sprawl of spawning mothers,
absent men and sand.

The hole so easy to cut,
the dive so easy to make.
Tip of the blade and rhythm,
pointed toes and thrust.

Oh Shanty Town,
Oh Lonely Bride,
Oh One that Got Away,
what your net can’t hold on land,
is the very thing that will kill you here.