25 May 2009

Mary Jo Bang

[from Mary Jo Bang's Apology for Want, Middlebury College, 1997]

In Order Not to Be Eten
Nor All to Torne

The elevator mirror tells me nothing, not how
nor why -- won't even say whether I'm ready.
Quiet also are the wolves

attached to my shirt cuffs and coat hem.
No trace of a howl, their canines sewn silent
through cloth. What is sound

but music of forest storm and sea spray?
Pitiable low under sentence of death.
Come here, little kitty, come here

from two boys at the well -- one
with a mud streaked face. The audible wish
for unparalleled happiness. What is vision

but rheotrope and ruffle
of silver wolf-willow leaves? Trembling lambs,
some thick and short, some long and swift.

Framed face in the bevel-edge
mirror, wolf's snout hung at my neck
so no witch will hurt me. And what is harm?

Wolf-trees of morning -- their children dressed
in bright green. Taking more than their share
of space, leafed heads buckling the sky above.

They restrict their neighbor's portion,
push them aside. They must be held -- but surely
you know this -- by their ears.

& There He Kept Her, Very Well

Harsh orange, dull burn
of realization.
My imperfections, once subtle,

are not inadmissible.
Still he keeps me
like a pretty need-not

in this fusty dungeon.
Someone has chosen poorly:
a pale persimmon for the walls,

the ceiling, the floor.
A single window, no door.
Hands dip into the vat,

a vicarage of strings.
He's removing the seeds
installing them in egg cups.

Soon a tray of tender shoots
will phosphoresce
in the dark. He wants me

to brighten
says a well-lit face will dazzle.
Outside, the dogs

have begun to howl.
Look --
it's Hecate, a torch in each hand.

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