Poetry: Selections from Mary Ann Dimand

So much depends upon the guardianship
of cattle egrets, their hunched-wing
walk between the gravestones. They are not holding
down the soil, the sinking caskets, the bones
that melt to meal, then mold—those turn
themselves, are turned by worms
and fungus, by the hungry underground
into a womb for insects, moles, and message
seeped between the trees. 
                                         No, those egrets
charged with light unfold it as their wings
are spread, they rising, crosses sad
to lift from loam. Down it flows their feathers,
iced though warm, shining with a promise: 
You will know. I light your way. 
I worry. Surely their slow pursuit
of mowers is for insects roused 
from toppled grass. The crickets, ticks,
and small moths of a sleepy field. They are quiet,
will not say. The earth is turning underfoot.
Cattle egrets shape flies into eggs
the blue of timid skies. And yet,
the cemetery would be less without them,
retiring souls bereft of feathered faith.

The stones are not enough, gift
of earth and fire or mud that formed
each mass and loaded it with gravity—nor
the skilled selection, nor the trim
by blade or shock, wind, or waves. There
they lie, a handsome heap, but not a wall.
No, the grammar of wall is courses fitted
so ingeniously they stand in tension,
or less laboriously, linked by a paste
of time and art, then laid in such selection
that wall braces wall; stone, stone. The order,
shape, and close connection bring
these elements to meaning, so they hold a space.
They’re plainly not alike. Each wall
does something different. “Don’t pass”
is not “Be safe inside,” nor “I hold hillside,”
nor yet “Lean on me, sun-warmed, 
grow and fruit.” But each magnificent heft
of rock makes little meaning without a builder’s logic.
We should have guessed, I judge, knowing how deep 
in pink clay dirt his toes were as he grew, how
the salt and risky air of ports might cure him. Power
from land and sea, upon and under. Strength
to build back soil by choosing crops. Heart
and mind to follow quail, to hear the dove, and hunt
for food and for those birds. Nerve and constancy 
to train for war, yet work for patient peace
through years of farming trust, of offering
backing, of means and ways and promised rescue
that came through. Mostly. With mistakes.
Raised in Georgia heat and laved in critics’ fires, 
his sweetness never burned, but only mellowed.
His grounding never faltered, fed by sky’s
own nitrogen imbued in earth, informed 
as if the squirrels chattered to him, mycelia 
whispered through his flesh, and he was always listening.
Perhaps because this world so loves him, 
he’s slow to die, as ancient redwoods are. Marvel
paired with marvel, a worn, bent elder holding up
the partner who’s upheld him on their long, slow path.


“Why does a state that puts convicts to death precede that with a last meal of their choice?” 
— @yankeeblues
Hail, Cerberus. We greet
you from this shore
of death, and beg your opening
of the gates of Hell for one
we shove to you. We send
him laden with an offering
cargo, a meal sumptuous
as he could dream of, warm
inside his belly still. Take 
him, we pray, and this his passage.
Assign no added mort of death
to us who, trembling, offed him.

The shattered deer 
on the road’s shoulder, 
the one-time
lamina of splattered
insects—flies and locusts,
mosquitos, moths,
and butterflies, skippers, 
and occasional sharp
dragonflies—even the husk-
dry bees blown in 
by arid Kansas 
aren’t just ends. They speak
of life, without which are no
ends, and of tomorrows
built not only
on the generations
they have birthed,
but how their bodies make
rich meals, habitations,
soils, temples of the energy
that wraps and moves
us all until—unless— 
we throttle it.

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 A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Agave Magazine, Apricity Magazine, The Birds We Piled Loosely, Bitterzoet Magazine, The Borfski Press, The Broken Plate, Chapter House Journal, The Charles Carter, Cider Press Review, The Ear, El Portal, Euphony Journal, Faultline, FRiGG Magazine, From Sac, Front Porch Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Hollins Critic, The Hungry Chimera, Isacoustic, I-70 Review, Journal of Undiscovered Poets, Literally Stories, The MacGuffin, Mantis, Medicine and Meaning, Misfit Magazine, Mount Hope Magazine, Nixes Mate Review, Oddville Press, OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters, Pennsylvania English, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Penumbra, Plainsongs, Platform Review, RAW Journal of the Arts, Redactions: Poetry & Poetics, Sage Cigarettes Magazine, Scarlet Leaf Review, Slab, Sortes, Steam Ticket, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Sweet Tree Review, Thieving Magpie, THINK: A Journal of Poetry, Fiction, and Essays, Tulane Review, Version 9, Visitant Lit, Whimperbang, Word For/Word, and Wrath-Bearing Tree.