Three Poems

Mary Biddinger

WISCONSIN WAS OUR CALIFORNIA

 

Because your days were tethered

to oversized moths, or bleeding aluminum

awnings, we could only go so far

 

as the train would take us. Those summers

nothing but radio and damp sheers

picketing the front window, imaginary

 

nuns I used to fold out of tissues.

At first I thought your body was dirty,

like cinema velvet. You had an alligator

 

spine in the foyer. I had to slide along

the floor to not wake your mother. Christ

himself was stationed on a plate

 

in the living room, painted by distant

grandfathers who earned the chin you split.

I counted the constellation of pinholes

 

surrounding your knee. You thought

they were charming, but you also loved

to press your cheek into the wing

 

of a moth, or its twin that existed inside

my body. I was a spill of trashy pearls,

not even close to fully formed.

 

 

 

OVER/UNDER

 

Your name was a sound that I made

when pitching the last box onto a wagon bed

 

and readying to go west. The apple

was so proud of its seam, in a way that spoke

 

of afternoons in a vault populated by wet

handkerchiefs and rotten snow,

 

holes, Toronto on the cusp of July,

the invention of lightning like we made it all

 

up. Everything looked and felt and eventually

went away mad. The fish may

 

have been fists, or lights. Truly I

was just another mandible to you, set of legs,

 

a lighter somebody dropped

backstage and later felt in the swift crevices

 

where back meets back meets back. Nothing

good ever happens now. I walk

 

with an eye over my shoulder. Sinister quick

marts. Sidewalk cafes patrons

 

sidle through. We spent so many

hours inventing a way to conflate ourselves

 

permanently, like a room packed with post-

structuralists and limited

 

supplies of olives. In your native language

there was nothing to rhyme

 

with a phrase meaning we

are meant to be together but flown apart.

 

 

 

MILD TO MODERATE SAVAGERY

 

Even the fire was on fire and covered

with fringe. I threw a handful of beads

 

into a lake. Not hand-carved ones, but

factory beads, the kind ladies threaded

 

in their chignons. The least senile man

present at late Mass would batter them

 

with a missalette, thinking sparks or

unusually quiet shelling. Everything

 

outside the church was orange-leaved.

There wasn’t the slightest sandal strap

 

or alligator clip, no altar boy belching

the alphabet into a payphone. Every

 

ledge had one cat and one quail, just

not at the same time. I wore a chronic

 

frill. My cousin was lowering herself

into a cauldron. My honey rack fell

 

off the wall in a sort of impromptu

fury. The wolves found a way into

 

an abandoned 1979 station wagon

and you know the rest of the story.

 

About the Writer

Mary Biddinger Split Lip Magazine

Mary Biddinger’s most recent poetry collection is O Holy Insurgency (Black Lawrence Press, 2013). She is also co-editor of The Monkey and the Wrench: Essays into Contemporary Poetics (U Akron Press, 2011). Her poems have recently appeared in Crazyhorse, Guernica, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, and Sou’wester, among others. She teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Akron, where she edits the Akron Series in Poetry and Barn Owl Review.