Poetry: Selections from Mary Ann Dimand
I know why that woman yells
from the gutter. When she spoke low,
they wouldn’t hear her. In order’s
jail, she wore a blue suit bound
by a frilled white tielet,
and went unseen. Now
her gallimaufry of layers swirls
like rainbow tentacles. No wonder
she rolls those bundles of dank rag
with her, caged inside her cart.
She’s choosing her work—
guarding what’s hers.
“You’re so lucky,” they used to crow,
patting her head and picking her pocket.
“So lucky,” as they loaded her with minor tasks,
“so ungrateful,” every time
they pressed her down. No one
pats that crusted hair. The dirty ice
is better than those busy fingers.
I like to see the undersides
of things, the seams that hold
the whole together and take
the strain. The staff who clear
away the dunes of trash, who move
the steady trains of food and clothes
along, who cool the brows and mop
the vomit. The space beneath
the house, the pipes that give
it breath and light and spit, and all the earth
informing them. Slumbering cicadas nursing
at the roots of trees, waiting to stitch
the earth to air. Mycelium
whispering tree to tree, passing
along gossip and fruiting the soil.
All the maps we’ve ripped
between the nations, sewn
again with trade and treaties,
every treaty dirty, every treaty worn
yet sounder than the snatchings
that tear more wounds. Busy as needles
that stitch though more ponderous,
trucks lumber steadily from port and depot,
gathering shores, pleating nations
to trade’s tidy waistband. Now here
on the seamy side of town, in warehouses
rest the goods that come and goods
that go. Quiet. Waiting. Amid
the metal sheds, a hummingbird trills, screaming
“Boundaries!” from beyond its own.
A Journal of the Plague Years
Now that so many buttocks
have floundered their way to beds,
dwindled behind hospital curtains, or anchored
whole bodies in boxes underground, the chairs
are free. I have seen them wandered
to the tops of kiosks, resting
by a trailhead they must have ambled,
showboating in city squares,
on welcome signs. I never saw
the spindle-legged ones giraffing
gingerly through shadows,
nor a busy rolling of casters
as brisk office chairs attack
their fitness goals. (Ah, to see the armchairs
wallow deep in meadow flowers!) Where else,
I wonder, might our lifted weight relieve
a groaning world? Will the spotted owl
rebound to snack on voles, the snail darter’s paths
stretch longer as the concrete crumbles,
earth spring back and throw the acid cement
from soil and its long-blocked exhalation?
It’s true. To you who watch, I push futility
uphill each day. The wakes of furrow
cumulate to grab my sandal edges, but
each day I start that boulder from its pad of moss
beside the river. Daily, I set my shoulders
and my heels, sigh, breathe, crouch, and lean,
and push to heave. No lie—I used
to think that nothing changed
for all my sweat. I tried to pay no mind,
no soul, but only body, to think
of sunshine or fresh connivance, though all thought
was flattened on the stone or underfoot.
I thought of thinking how to plan some snare, some artifice
to bag the god who trapped me. Futile. The boulder
scraped me raw, flayed the angry tatters of my fame.
Yet day by day my proud flesh tempered, thickened. Wounds
transformed to strength against that stone. I looked
for signs that I could gnaw that gneiss as it carved me. I could—
I saw the polish slowly smoothing
wrinkled stone, shallowing deep cracks. I fancied
that I felt the long, low croon of acid sweat
beneath my noisy breath, my grunt, singing
as it licked the stone it thawed. And then I saw
the rock. Its rippled bands of dark and light,
stone ocean caught by time. And then I knew—
we are making something together, stone
and I. I don’t know what. Too soon
to tell what we’ll become as work sculpts
us, wears and pares our schist, brings to light
what’s underlain our heavy lives. Yes, every day.
We are long art, boulder and I, stone and sculptor,
learning what’s inside.
The World Turned Upside Down
A fish was caught on camera attacking and eating a baby bird.
CBC Radio, February 15th, 2021
The sturdy mummichog has turned the tables,
bringing sea against the watchful sky. Why
should water lie prone, encumbered, supporting airs
and trees and things with legs? Why when waves
have swamped the nest should fish
not rend a chick to meat and gulp it down? Shores
are weakening and storms are freed. Tall, unrooted
towers that called the skies their kin
are hollowed, softening and surrendering
their living treasures. Eager earth, hungry
tides embrace the lives that overlooked them.
Small barons of the markets wane and lords devour
them, but all works are mortal, and the order
changes. The torrents turn where no corner
has been, new songs drown out the old
refrains, and pearls once clutched infuse young wines.
May currents take the frames that are exhausted,
regardless of their gilt or luster, and may floods
bring in what’s live and changing, hungry
and yet enduring, to build strong foundation
for more life to come. May fish be fed
and found new grazing, birds be spurred to sing
in flight to higher grounds.
Mary Ann Dimand was born in Southern Illinois where Union North met Confederate South, and her work is shaped by kinships and conflicts: economics and theology, farming and feminism and history. Dimand holds an MA in economics from Carleton University, an MPhil from Yale University, and an MDiv from Iliff School of Theology. Some of her previous publication credits include: The History of Game Theory Volume I: From the Beginnings to 1945; The Foundations of Game Theory; and Women of Value: Feminist Essays on the History of Women in Economics, among others. Her work is published or forthcoming in Agave Magazine, Apricity Magazine, The Birds We Piled Loosely, Bitterzoet Magazine, The Borfski Press, The Broken Plate, Chapter House Journal, Euphony Journal, Faultline, FRiGG Magazine, From Sac, Green Hills Literary Lantern, The Hungry Chimera, Isacoustic, The MacGuffin, Mantis, Misfit Magazine, Mount Hope Magazine, Nixes Mate Review, Oddville Press, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Penumbra, Plainsongs, RAW Journal of the Arts, Scarlet Leaf Review, Slab, Sweet Tree Review, THINK: A Journal of Poetry, Fiction, and Essays, Tulane Review, Visitant Lit, and Wrath-Bearing Tree.