Two Poems

Poetry / Mary Biddinger

:: The Art of Fiction ::

You should have better endowed
your protagonist. His foil

shivers though it’s an indoor phone
booth and she is not too

drunk to dial the number inked
onto her blouse-cuff. Divorce papers

always look fake, like snow
or joy. Your protagonist’s teeth

are too perfect for his mien. No
proper mountain man recites Goethe

in public. No product of Chicago
turns down a jar glass for a demitasse.

Trees were in favor of the end,
or perhaps they knew it was coming,

like the team of painters in moon
gear, your protagonist drawing upon

his exquisite education to vacate
the colonnade just in time, all sorrows

partially itemized like harpsichord keys
in a parlor of rebellious silk.

:: A Tiny Poison Eye ::

You see, I had enough of all the rocks.
Of the counting names, and naming hoops
full of air. Like somebody peddling trophies
at a garage sale. Like anyone would fall
for that same sort of thing more than once.
And I do not want to see your magic arm,
even if it’s gold. The tea bags constructed
of authentic muslin, presenting themselves
as a miniature sanctuary. I was among
things too small to see with naked eye. I was
among an inhospitable element. Like anyone
would fall for the trick of what’s in my
pocket. It’s not so much the peddling of
trophies, but buying them. Like my name
was Matilda, and I could fit so much water-
melon in the cannon I built with my father
under a piece of corrugated plastic. My name
was your name and we coalesced until
we were both altar boys, until we cut hands
on the same pricker bushes, dropped our
lunches in the same puddles, vanquished
duplicate enemies. You see, I had enough
to go on, and then I got even more. Magic
arm, no magic arm, my grandfather took his
eye out and everyone screamed. Like anyone
would fall for that same sort of thing more
than once, or more than twice. It’s not so
much the eye but the hand that holds it.


From the Writer

:: Account ::

When I was a child in Illi­nois, we had to take tor­na­do warn­ings seri­ous­ly. For­get the siren. We read the tone of the trees, the direc­tion of sweat down the backs of our necks. Some­times the ducks broke into fac­tions and raged at each oth­er, then the lighter ones took flight and we knew not to com­plain that vinyl car seats were too hot, or to point out the cor­ner of blue sky that con­tra­dict­ed all of our intu­itive knowl­edge. When I was a child, I learned how to feel lit up by silent infor­ma­tion. Some­times at night my AM radio pulled in the strangest sig­nals, and I learned not to switch them off.

It’s too easy to claim that writ­ing a poem is like observ­ing the same set of mal­lards over a peri­od of time, then draw­ing con­clu­sions about their moti­va­tions. Tor­na­does form and rav­age and move on, but poems linger. Poems start like a warn­ing, with the feel­ing and the signs, the sense of being some­what “off” yet elec­tric, but they can occu­py the pas­sen­ger seat of a car, or sidle up along­side the dentist’s chair when piped-in music turns to a par­tic­u­lar smooth jam. A poem needs to achieve liftoff, and it needs to spin. It con­tains equal mea­sures of dev­as­ta­tion and awe.

I often won­der why I look to rec­ol­lec­tion as a way to begin a poem about the not-dis­tant past, or the present. It’s because I felt so much more back then, feared less, saw things with­out tire­some con­no­ta­tions. When I look at pho­tographs from 1985, the world seems like it was much dim­mer; ever­green trees in the yard sulked rather than tow­er­ing. If all of my poems are about one thing, it would be long­ing. My poems want to go back. My poems want to make every­one look up at the sky. 


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