Mary Walker Graham (Boston, USA): Three Poems

[THE STORY’S IN THE BROKEN SHELLS]


The story's in the broken shells, the fissures
of the rocks. The water left those cracks.
And it was the sea that rocked; that sang
its story of self or selves. I said,
You see me? And it did:
the sea saw.

I'm lying. It was a river
that ran nearest us, and all that night
I dreamt of alkali, dissolve.
That's why I say the sea, I like the salt.


THEN & NOW


I couldn't be more or less than I was then,
could I? But like a person, thought I could.

Standing beside the picnic table—
beside myself—mimicked hands, hello, and mouth.

Said yessir, pleasesir, thankyou—I watched
the boats go south. I waved goodbye, dutifully. I bore

the empty wine bottle to the basket, shoo-ing flies.
But all day he'd been leaning—mast and pole—

he had us cleaning the underside of the belly,
all along the bulwark and the bow. I had tools then,

didn't I? Steel wool, toothbrush, tar. Once
I tarred a roof, rewired a house. I was small;

I could fit into crevices. But only like a person.
I was a child: rest and enervation. I could as easily

lie down now in rows of soybeans, as against
the plaid flannel of your shirt, smelling of gasoline.


ON THE BANKS OF THE RIVER IN WINTER


So many Marys grieving by the river
that I have to cover my ears
to shut out the sobbing and hear,

as if for the first time,
the long low sound of the water
and the train just beginning

to round the bend and blow
its way through the dark tunnel.
How many times I've sat

in summer: considered the chicory,
drawn the blue bridge flung
from bank to bank, or wondered

the names of the red flowers,
their throats like trumpets.
How many times I've not

given in to the weeping:
I can almost see her—the one
who lifts the Potomac mud

to her face and smears,
as if it were a balm and not
the original problem,

or the one with the bucket of fish:
she should return them but that would mean
letting them slip, silver and whole,

finally cast out. I'd rather
let them wander in the maples,
cold and insistent and crying.

I should swim somehow—wait
for spring; I've been waving
to that other a long time,

the one who wears the red
and not the blue scarf.


© Mary Walker Graham 2008