Sometimes the better is worse,

but masked men still rob banks, swans

continue to terrorize small children,


and a lawyer will forever throw

his paper cup out the window at an oak

that never committed a single crime


other than paralyzing with branches

or catching fire in 1979, when torches

were so popular. And itís not your


man who holds up the burger joint

with a blue ballpoint pen, stuffs a rabbit

in his vest at the petting zoo. Yours


is too busy trying to lick every

coin in the mint, aspiring to recreate

a song by the Velvet Underground


that nobody has heard of before,

the one called Take My Wheels Off Now

Little Mary. And when he sings


it to you with a mouth full of blood

and teeth, you believe him, as

you always have. Your refrigerator


is filled with steaks, and somebody

has folded an angora sweater

under your childhood scarecrow doll


with half a dozen pages inside torn

from various domestic or

Russian novels. He canít help himself


from highlighting the most relevant

passages. The bartender calls

by 8:15 and you need to get him out,


or somebody like him. A green smudge

of raincoat always trembling.

Every glass lit by invisible embers.




My childhood was packed in slander,

dresser drawers filled with fire-wool,


centipedes in the sewers, my father

always brandishing the whipping rod


just out of eyesight. My childhood

contained all the workings of fine


horses dead centuries ago but still

bones. Sometimes they would rise


out of the river and gallop someone.

Perhaps the bloodless girl. Wood


transformed into a mushroom cove.

You could press your thumb into


her leg and the plum would stay

for an hour. Understand that our


plums were very small, and the girl

had no blood. Consider it more


of an illumination. A walk through

an ordinary suburb where nobody


died meaningfully. I was tempted

to press my finger right through


her blue eye. We will not speak of

her mouth, the way her house rang


out with stones at the beginning

of every week. Our hours were long


compared to a conventional clock.

Perhaps they were eternal. The girl


was my childhood. She let me

wrap her in a leaf the size of god.


Mary Biddinger is the author of the poetry collections Prairie Fever (Steel Toe Books, 2007), Saint Monica (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), O Holy Insurgency (Black Lawrence Press, September 2012), and A Sunny Place with Adequate Water (Black Lawrence Press, 2014). She is also co-editor of one volume of criticism, The Monkey and the Wrench: Essays into Contemporary Poetics (U Akron Press, 2011). Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Barrelhouse, Bat City Review, Blackbird, Devilís Lake, Forklift, Ohio, H_NGM_N, iO, Redivider, and South Dakota Review, among others. She teaches literature and poetry writing at The University of Akron, where she directs the NEOMFA program and edits Barn Owl Review, the Akron Series in Poetry, and the Akron Series in Contemporary Poetics. She is currently at work on a novel-in-poems.