Summer 2008, #15
       "Convenient Acts of Human Behavior"

Three Poems

     by Mary Jo Bang


Was distinctly unglamorous.
A wince-making barrenness.
An eighteen-rib mule

Hungry unfed at the empty.
It wasn't an imaginary landscape.
But the morgue man bent

Over the young man asleep on a Lethean slab.
It was the season of quiet:
The quiet of death. The uneasy quiet

After the gasp in the middle
Of the terrible, terrible movie
That someone had made and kept showing

On the screen at the back of her mind.
She would watch it now,
Its implacable Technicolor patterns,

Gray shirt, green pants,
The forced metal deco trim of a door.
The open door leading always to darkness.

Blue Sky Elegy

A sea, a shipside and then, a later scene, at the center of emptiness: her hair floats up but never meets the horizon line. She's sinking, behind the drape of the dead day and later on, after that, wearing a nightdress. Once, when I was four, in a fever, I saw someone not there. I see you as a grief heat hallucination telling me I could have saved you if I'd been better. Then, a handful of tablets. The curtain comes down on the handcuffed one. The end, the end. Yet again. Overshadowed by history, destruction is all. Design a lake. Place it at the edge of a city. Think of it as a door. Then let yourself in. A film made of frames shows the variations of hours that slide through time like a hand-wound camera slides film through a slot, until it stops on the sprockets and holds. Then the moment is a packaged magazine pose. Both more and the same as any particular image invented: fantasy and scientific fact, death and its problems, cases of trance mistaken for death.

There Is Only This

Now, 12:31 turning over in its bed,
Its head to the feet of another, shrouded
In a body bag. A bee carcass.

I'm at the door
Of the dark watching the saddest story: The loss
Of everything

Flickers on the dream screen.
A woman dead centered
Is saying something

It takes great patience to hear. My ear is a beach
And the sea is talking to it incessantly.
It sounds like

She is saying, "My mouth is a rock,
Please roll it away"
But I doubt that I have it

Within me to do it, even if it is what she wants.