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   Jacket 33 — July 2007        link Jacket 33 Contents page        link Jacket Homepage

Mary Jo Bang

Three poems

Intractable, and Irreversible

The overcast cast of the sky is the secondary drama.
On the screen at the back of the mind.
Far from the vigilant eye,

A dictionary definition of death is written
Over the grid of a calendar sequence.
Death is the date when the output is over.

An irreversible heartbeat hiatus
That goes by the name of no more.
At home in his ash box, he was going nowhere

Else. He was living with her now
In a land of low clouds
Where weather was the only possible change.

The clouds see nothing.
The clouds are nothing but ice changes and water.
Water changes and morning’s cold sets in motion

The proximate — the visible — day.
There will be no more of time and time’s corruption
For the ash in the box. The love of her life.

She notices how quiet he is in there.
Out here, she says, I talk
But always to a mirror

Where a face looks out like a clock that says night
Is coming and then it comes like a coat of silted black.
Thank you, she says, as she slips into bed.

One more alarm silenced. One more
Closet door closed. One more
Shoe sole set to the floor

Of checkered linoleum. The castle is quiet,
The castle is snug. A dream bell begins to toll, to tell
Of the intolerable end that keeps going on.

Where Once

On the street, looking up, there you were.
A single helium balloon, imagine
A flat-face mouse in Mylar.

You floated the way you always liked to float.
Now you have been renamed and imperfectly faced.
You’ve become the extreme form of nothingness

Sequestered, as at the end of a siege
In a quarantined city hospitals are often reduced
To ideas and empty rooms.

You’re still there for those who know where to look
And what to watch for, as in dreams — where
In spite of death color comes back,

Youth and a house and a red car and you
And the paper on which you once drew a world
As a pack of cards that sequentially revealed the next

To last thing seen as an animal falls.
You stood on that ground and it was under your feet.
And then you walked away.

How Beautiful

Daylight, an ozone
From under the cloud cover.
The gravel pile, the sepulcher,
The watch change each time someone pushed up a sleeve.

Out the window, the clouds like something
She could touch. The constructed moment
Ever-mortgaged to the moment
Of before or after, if later.

The hush at the height of the hurricane watch.
The cloud cover coming
During the night and obscuring the maze
That made up the day. That made up the city

With its hotel lobby with its own
Set of pink leatherette club chairs, circa 1930’s France,
Positioned on either side
Of a deco-faced fireplace with a faux-log gas fire.

Intimacy by décor. By fast-disappearing features
Of Continental ornamental design.
A girl with a cell-phone to her ear sat
In one of the chairs saying, “No, no, I’m finished.

I’m only waiting to see what will happen.”
Her silver bracelet said something.
Her legs were crossed legs.
The gold-yellow thread of the top leg inseam was visible

Against the dark denim. A dotted line declaration
That answered the question
Of, What? Answer:
A leg. A hint of sitting. A manner of suggesting.

Through the windows the dark clouds kept coming.
Suggesting, more or less,
A personal lens: glass bending rays
That gave one that day’s news

Saying each and every day, Just remember you are standing
On a planet that’s evolving.
How beautiful, she thought, what distance does
For water, the view from above or afar.

In last night’s dream, they were back again
At the beginning. She was a child and he was a child.
A plane lit down and left her there.
Cold whitening the white sky whiter.

Then a scalpel cut her open for all the world
To be a sea

Mary Jo Bang

Mary Jo Bang

Mary Jo Bang is the author of four books of poetry, including Louise in Love and The Eye Like a Strange Balloon. Her fifth book of poems, Elegy, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in October of 2007. A graduate of the Columbia University MFA program, she is currently an Associate Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Washington University in St. Louis.