The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Tuesday

By Mary Jo Bang


It’s the human side of nature: zygote to blastocyte, inertia
or standstill -- the binary character of choice. Was it bad or good
to have been ambitious? You know but refuse to say

or else choose Undecided. Regardless, your answer is silence.
Worth is the second question. Recitation (sometimes called Mantra),
the third. A practical section—eleven tasks graded by a similar

who now stands before you. Conviction will of course be measured,
counted toward a total. Do you know your lines?
Do your gestures correspond? What were you thinking?


What have I done? Key in a lock. Hand against the check -- old bone,
you are still delicate behind this skin. The children cry when they pass;
throw stones against the door. Three o’clock is all the sun they give me,

a bitter taste when I wake. Morning is a tree, a wooden box,
a black dress. Shoes. The tiny heel, nails that work their way up.
The taste of a coin caught in the throat.


She says the container is irrelevant, jar or box --
either can be lined with black glass. What escapes is the flawed
view of the face, a garbled name, the clean reversal of all
except hope -- which is gifted with symmetry and looks.


What can be weighed against attraction, irrepressible
and palpable cathexis. I wrote you, I have never moved
from perfect to perfect
. Who has? It’s the yellow-green beneath
today’s paint that hides the story’s end, the thread of all said, all done.

Even transgressions change names: this moment’s small sin
will be tomorrow’s sacred. I’ve been rereading the letters:
yours are evenly dull. Mine are a bit like true love: five shades
of gray and an opening.


Who opened these doors: turned the knobs right then left
gas mixing with whistling, a metal jackhammer breaking
the dense kitchen air? An empty cup is neither

half-full nor half-empty. She returns, bends to listen again
to what he said. Was it yesterday? Takes down the tin. Measures.
It’s difficult to say enough. To say yesterday or the day before.

He had said -- Then she had said, You see. . .
Turns her head to the kitchen white, listens to the stand pipe
directing its ration. Water once settled everything -- witches, adulterers.

Only those who swim, she thinks. Tomorrow she will try
to be beautiful for somebody else. Some other way. Today, the usual
injustices. And no one to ask after hours, May I? Can I?

If, then what will happen?


Had a quieter but still enjoyable day, getting my articles out of the way early while watching the groundhogs and bunnies out the window, taking the kids to the playground at the YMCA next door to my in-laws' development, then having brunch and going to play miniature golf. We finished just before it started to rain, and left to go home after dinner just before it started to rain, so luck was with us weather-wise. I had the best miniature golf game of my life and beat all five other members of my family. *g*

I realized that I should have squeed more about the things I liked in Cinderella Man rather than muttering about things that have bothered me in every single Hollywood movie I have seen this year, namely: can't anyone write women for shit, why are there so many cliches in film scripts and why must big-name directors retread things they've done instead of taking more interesting risks. The kids are wonderful, which is often not the case in movies with children (I don't-want to see Dakota Fanning almost as much as I don't-want to see Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds), and Russell is completely adorable with them. My absolute favorite scene in the movie is one between Braddock and his older son. The politics, which make pointed references to the current administration as well as the Hoover administration, are quite pleasing though I almost wish they hadn't been kept at the level of metaphor-for-modern-era because the details in the Depression are so important and it makes everything more clear and vivid when one really sees how people lived with absolutely nothing. And there's some very nice, subtle humor between the characters that makes Braddock very likeable. I want to see this one again despite the boxing, and believe me that's saying something.

I read Jasper Fforde on the way home from Pennsylvania, when I stopped looking at the gorgeous post-rain clouds, and have to quote my favorite line from the whole Thursday Next series so far, from The Well of Lost Plots: "Reading is arguably a far more creative and imaginative process than writing; when the reader creates emotion in their head, or the colors of the sky during the setting sun, or the smell of a warm summer's breeze on their face, they should reserve as much praise for themselves as they do for the writer -- perhaps more." This is making me want to reread both Stanley Fish and The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon. I am sleepy, so I shall leave with some prettiness...


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