Poetry: Selections from Mary Paulson


I write YOU SUCK in scarlet lipstick—
the brilliant letters
mar your perfect beige
living room wall. Moving on
I scribble ASSHOLE and LIAR
above your new plasma TV and later,
MOTHERFUCKER across the hood
of your pretty, silver BMW.
I separated all 1,800 of your favorite
LPs from their jackets and reassigned them
according to the spectrum of visible light
cross-referenced by my mood, currently
RED. Red like the heart
I leave on the kitchen wood block to
bleed and beat. Red
as the apple I bite from your cheek.
I can’t say I didn’t know it was coming—
you were cheating someone else when you
first kissed me. I plead
temporary ardor aggravated
by willful blindness. I wanted to be
better, special. You proved me INEFFECTUAL,
STUPID, the SAME. It may well be
nobody’s fault, but I just
laid out multiple strings of red
Christmas lights to blink DICK
then HEAD in alternate rhythm
across your front lawn.

Art Theory

(with apologies to Mom, an Art History major)

Salvador Dali had a dream of Picasso’s head.
It sat in a square within a northward-pointing triangle
that was slowly receding until all that was left
was a liquid blue eye, the size of a child’s fist. The eye
(i.e., Picasso) glared at him sternly
and demanded that Dali stop insisting he was Arab
and focus instead on the effect of natural light
juxtaposed with his (Dali’s) sexual urges. Outside
a great racket had begun by a gang of tiny dots
appareled in hues of salted blues—
aquamarine, turquoise, slate and lavender, midnight shale—
each elbowing for position in a great, group portrait. At once
moving and merging under a sun-white streetlight,
they agreed at last on a single landscape of daytime sky as viewed
from the TGV returning to Paris from Nancy
then added, at the last minute, a bowler hat
floating on a cloud. The hat birthed a thought in a balloon
alongside a cool squiggle of pipe. Not just any pipe,
une pipe, held by a Thinker accustomed to staring into space.
He rested his jaw on one hand, the pipe in the other and
while wondering when he would conclude his very long thought
and while puffing on a pipe that was not, after all, a pipe
he was chagrined to find himself turning to stone right in front of the Mona Lisa who almost grinned.

Trouble with the Moon

Don’t know what to do
about the moon
this night—
it’s shine too white, glare
too bright and
I can’t see the stars
as I’d like. Even the sea is shocked
into stillness,
in solid silver. I feel
stripped, there’s nowhere
to hide—
the moon is always there, staring,
It’s like being tied to a chair, tortured
by air, one big hairy eye
issuing a dare—
to answer the question, spill
the beans but I’ve got nothing, nothing
to share.
Rage at the moon!
And all its disconcerting flair.
I shake my fist at the moon.
Stop looking at me! I say out loud, feeling
swiftly stupid and
kowtowed.  Head bowed,
I shuffle inside
to find my understanding cat.


when the floors tilt and I feel like a slinky shaping
along, mechanically sloping on
down the stairs—
when my body de-stiches, expands like a fog or
pulls in tight like the musty rolled leaves
of a cigar around a dark passage—
when I see the jagged painted faces in
a Picasso, eyes and noses detached, sent
apart from one another,
his bone strung mistress like a marionette—
when my mind strays from
itself, cerebellum and stem at odds, the brain 
of higher vertebrae today
rebelling, will tomorrow cajole—
when ligaments thrum in my legs like guitar
strings, nightlight neurons click
on, vibrate pink, effervesce green—
when, on the wind, sudden scents take
me places, displace me—
I live my life at turns, wanting to fall apart
unanimously or despairing
to find a way to keep myself together—
This body is an appendage and its skin, a curious
suit that morphs in ways I never
agreed to. Most things happen
without my permission. I read about a woman
who had ten people stuffed into her
one head and thought, yes.
There are hats without heads floating
in Magritte skies, faces without faces caught
in a photographic moment, strung out
on an 8x10 frame or
loose elsewhere on the street—

For Me

it becomes operatic in swift
escalation, a convocation of voice
an earthquake of earthquake
birthing a canyon—
every gash and fissure, every interstice
of body crowded by crescendo—
I swell and split like a fig.
I’ve timed it wrong though. Popped my cork straight
through the ceiling.
Lost my head.
Left him to whisper, pant, sweat over the body
I’ve already let go.

Mary Paulson’s writing has appeared in multiple publications, most recently in Thimble Lit MagazineTipton Poetry JournalThe Metaworker, Months to Years, ChronogramPine Hills ReviewBackchannels and Discretionary Love. Her debut chapbook, Paint the Window Open was published by Kelsay Publishing in 2021.