Three Poems

by Mary Moore Issue: Spring 2018

A Diffident Heaven

Spring storms plate the walls
pewter, affixing the metals
of light. Place domineers here:
it fates the light and the hierarch
tiers of mountain slate
which dictate the difficult winding roads
coal trucks gouge and pleat.

Tuesday, I drove past three shanties
built of plastic, plyboard and tin
foundered on a ridge too thin
for houses.  Blue tarps
mended one, lending it
a gaiety that hurt.
The store nearby was taciturn:
"Junk," it said, and spurned
Nothing—hats, washers, doors.
The latter were up-ended in rows
like books pressing between them
the airs of abandoned rooms.
A barn beside it of corrugated tin
said in faded black and gold,
"Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco."

Further on, a half-mile long coke plant
sported twenty flumes, and flame panted
and pointed from two thirty-foot stacks.
The off-ramp sign posted nearby said
"Belle."  The river pleated
and dimpled with light beyond it.

Here too, native violets
and dandelions cohabit
on lawns and rural road-cuts:
purple and yellow, yin and yang,
clash and complement,
signs of the land's contrary
powers.  All night, Spring storms worry
the native dogwood, whose
rust-pink flowers don't appear
in the field guide.
The four petals, thumb-wide,
waxy and thick, rust-notched
at each tip, shade to ivory
then peridot at the calyx.
Each cups its seed in clutches
of green buck-shot.  The notched
petals form a cross—Celtic—
the stigmata warn and mourn.

We heard too as we drove
West Virginia's almost heaven
the seventy kinds of singing birds
Copeland evokes.
The narrow hills were
tufted with trees
just leafing out, barely furred,
chartreuse and blurrily
immature like young men's beards,
but the slopes were aged
like old men's skulls,
sparsely whiskered, hairs spooked
erect by a scare.  Underneath, a buried
hub of machinery spins—
a diffident heaven's factory.


Light ….is one and the same with fire.
We forget that fire is the sire of light,
that even the tungsten trees in light bulbs
must burn to make the yellow egg
light. But the dry woods catching fire
on the succeeding waves of ridges
remind us. Juniper and poplar,
already torch-shaped, flash into flame,
martyrs to our heedless love of fire.
They redden the smoke they billow
for miles. The trees are phoenixes,
both pyre and fuel, destined to rise
years later from the feathers of ash.
But the sun self-immolates, you say, and blink,
foresighted, as those who can die just once are.

Mud Daubers and Orbweavers

The monstrous body is pure culture.  A construct and a projection.... the monstrum is etymologically “that which reveals,” “that which warns…”
                                                                        —Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Monster Theory

The mud-daubers make paper maché
organ pipes under my eaves
while the cardinals purloin
the letters off the Baptists’
sign, “Jesus Saves.”
The S’s and J they dangle
on the walnut tree—they’re
Jesuits—with lost earrings
and dried cherry stems curled
like apostrophes, though nothing’s
owned or owing.

The birds ignore the mud-daubers
despite the light they shed
on how to fill your house
with little horrors.

The news says the drought
kills recluses and gray wolf spiders.
But the mud daubers will survive
on the many species of orbweavers.

Whatever else the large mind
imagined, emporiums of
opalescent clouds,
“Girl With a Pearl,”
toothy and toothsome
animals with striped and speckled
hides, it also hides
in the mud-daubers’ larvae
special chemicals
that digest spiders,
armor, venom, and all,
both awful and marvelous,
like us.

Mary Moore


Mary B. Moore’s second full-length collection, Flicker, won the 2016 Dogfish Head Poetry award (judges, Carol Frost, Baron Wormser, and Jan Beatty), and her chapbook Eating the Light, won Sable Books’ 2016 award (judge, Allison Joseph): both appeared that year. Cleveland State published The Book of Snow (1998). Georgia Review, Poem/Memoir/Story, Cider Press Review, Drunken Boat, and Birmingham Poetry Review have published recent poems. She won Nimrod’s 2017 Pablo Neruda Poetry Contest’s Second Place Award, and poems are forthcoming in that journal, and in The Nasty Woman Anthology, Cider Press Review, and Minerva Rising, among others.