3 Poems by Mary McGinnis


Your name, so full of red:
a bursting heart
a four-pronged cry.

Surrender is never easy;
take your hand out of your mouth,
stop biting your hand.

Breathe and then shout,
breathe and then cry;
the men in your life,

tiny pillars of ice on your chest;
open wide,
and let them fall where they may.

Magdalena, a town was named after you,
where children killed their parents,
and parents their children.

Forget about that.
Lie down in the snow,
now that you are talking again,
wisps of calm around your head.
When you have recovered from the past,
spray paint the mountains with apology.

Magdalena, here is chocolate
full of red and yellow strands
of feeling: drink it.

For Michele With Half of an Explanation

I thought of you tonight
with your black eyes and crazy mother from Carlsbad,
and how for the first years of our college friendship,
it seemed that we had known each other all our lives.

When your mother stood on her porch,
her jellyfish hands quivering,
it was the same for me when I left my mother –
they told us with their silence, fear and advice
we couldn’t make it on our own.
To make sure that we could,
I sang on buses,
and you made Mexican food from your hometown.

(We both wanted
big tapestried, adult lives.)

Why I took the time to make love with your ex-lover,
whom I didn’t even like, I don’t know.
Maybe it was the oil of clove I was wearing –
it covered up sweat and frustration.

And then why he told you about the awkward bread of our bodies,
after Renaissance music,
I don’t know.

I don’t know why, to this day, I forgot
you were my friend in bells,
my enchilada-making friend,
escaped from the desert where you pulled
out scorpions from under the house.
I remember you were always cold in Pennsylvania,
and read out loud to me
velvet bundles of old English
words because you could.

I’ll Write You a Letter Someday

I’ll write you a letter edged in cranberries;
when I knew you, I was 18, you were 23.
You asked me to marry you.

Marriage was at the bottom of the basement steps,
full of cobwebs in Johnstown, Pa.
The only way to get down there was to lift up

a heavy board,
an iron ring and descend into damp cold,
so, of course, we couldn’t marry.
We played out the first part of our loving in your mother’s

basement apartment. Upstairs was her dress shop.
We could hear the clatter of high heels, women trying on clothes, squealing.
She told us to keep quiet while the shop was open:

no orgasmic bells ringing,
or enthusiastic hippy yells.
I hid under the covers a lot,

thought I had been hit by a cataract of water
in last night’s dream.
Neither of us had much money.

Could we ever afford more than spaghetti,
and if so, when? If this was what being a couple was,
I wasn’t sure I wanted any part of it.

Competitive sex – you know why I’m saying that;
restlessness, jealousy, secrecy, an affair
within an affair, a balloon of hope and deceit

between us but at least we weren’t married.
The cranberries around my letter framed my memory
in a trellis of fragile health.

After all, you were my first, artful and smooth-skinned.
Write back to me if you ever got a real job
or you are more disciplined now.

Mary McGinnisblind since birth, has been writing and living in New Mexico since 1972 where she has connected with emptiness, desert, and mountains. Published in over 80 magazines and anthologies, she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and has three full length collections: Listening for Cactus (1996), October Again (2008), See with Your Whole Body (2016), and a chapbook, Breath of Willow, published by Lummox for winning the poetry contest in 2017. Mary frequently offers poetry readings and writing workshops in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico.