Mary Leonard



Do not be Daunted

The teacher said, Free write for 6 minutes, maybe 8

         seemed like 60 -- so many topics popped up
but I didn't find my way inside nor did I want to,

tired of stories
         only wanted to blither on

or become a character in a Paul Auster novel,
         watching foreign films, just watching, because who would

want to see or talk about the news:
         one woman stoned after being raped,

one whose husband threw acid in her face
         after she asked for a divorce…but those things don't just happen

                  Elsewhere.

In Philly, last week, my son's friend
         was murdered by his girlfriend's stalker.

The teacher said, 6 minutes, just another minute or so.

I started to write what I didn't want to see:

The girlfriend in the car the boyfriend dead
         on the street,

the killer driving her around
                          and around

until she escaped to get the cops
                  too late, always too late.

I didn't want to tell that story, any story
        I wanted to escape into writing lala sounds,
maybe singing to Anna, the wheels on the bus go round and round.

Once on a ferry in Stockholm, reading a Paul Auster novel
        about a man watching a man watching him,

I glanced at the woman next to me
        who was reading the same novel

and she glanced at me and we laughed
          and for a moment we were not daunted by the world's grief.

Find a place to close, the teacher said.


An Ode to the Clark Mill Workers

Some workers wore coveralls with pink bows
like cousins Genny and Ida in the cotton mills
spinning threads for what women could sew:
dresses and booties and fancy pieced quilts.

Genny and Ida worked in the old Clark mills
prayed at St Rocco's and played bingo,
sewed dresses and booties and fancy pieced quilts
while suffocating and sweating in dusty dye lots

Prayed at St Rocco's and played bingo
turning cotton into lilac and clean daisy threads
working long hours in the hot Clark mills--
suffocating and sweating in dusty dye lots

Turning cotton into lilac and clean daisy threads
Genny and Ida ate and ate their dreams away
while suffocating and sweating in dusty dye lots
and taking care of Papa and garden beds

Genny and Ida ate and ate their dreams away,
never knowing the sweat and sweetness of men
they took care of Papa and garden beds
and hid inside sun hats and flowered housecoats.

Not knowing the sweat and sweetness of men,
they tore their old skirts to wrap the fig tree
and hid inside sun hats and flowered house coats
and tied themselves to apron strings and fancy threads.

They tore their old skirts to wrap the fig tree
and planted tomatoes and basil in neat garden rows
while tying themselves into knots of string and threads
and dying alone in rooms stuffed only with pink bows.


After hearing Arvo Part's Summa for Strings

           I hid behind

the door.
                      She's in there

           my sister                  is in there

and I am
                                 out here

I hid behind

the door.
                      She's in there

           my sister                  is in there

She does not know
                               that

           I will always hide
                                         and she will always

be inside                     It's dark


           I have been silent
                                           So long
So long
           that I can taste my breath
                                               even hers.


About the Author

Mary Leonard is an Associate of the Institute for Writing and Thinking at Bard College where she leads workshops for teachers and students. She has published four chapbooks of poetry at 2River, Pudding House, Antrim House Press and most recently from RedOchreLit. Her poems have appeared in many journals such as the Naugatuck Review, Earth's Daughters, Hubbub and in the December 2014 Chronogram.

Meanwhile she loves to read poetry in the Hudson Valley because it puts her in touch with other writers, artists and poets and of course anyone who loves poetry.

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