Mary Donnelly was born in San Pedro, CA and received an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her work has appeared in
The Brooklyn Rail, Crowd, The Hat, Hunger Mountain, Indiana Review, and The Iowa Review.
She is Poetry Editor for the online journal failbetter and Co-director of the "Reading Between A and B" series.
She lives in Brooklyn and teaches through Gotham Writers’ Workshop.
The Brooklyn Rail
Three poems by Mary Donnelly
There is sunshine. And then not.
and a fevered push away from ground.
Starlight becomes us,
illuminating eyes and airbrushing
We are downright suburban
in our flare
for the unpresentable. Under street-
lamps, we rub oil on our knees
to make them shine further,
to signal aliens
to our split-level homes. We turn cartwheels,
becoming human flares.
Desperately in need of something new,
something old and unsafe, we mourn
the loss of firecrackers,
bb guns and cigarettes. We burn
our bike helmets, car seats,
mothers’ folic acid. We long
to run around in the summer night
until one am. To leap barefoot
into abandoned lots, nailed boards,
snakes and all. Meanwhile, down below
green mussels on the rocks
grow their poison. Bony fish
climb out of liquid glass and onto beach.
Thus continues our purgatorio—bruises and
loose teeth, the madness of the moon,
and all the moonmen with it.
In the Belly of the Sea
And so the octopus in chameleon coat outsmarts us all.
A catwalk or a coral walk. A crustacean’s saloon.
As my mother used to say, never trust a mussel in July
even if it begs. Or a captain who drinks atop his broken mast.
Or as my drowned grandfather used to say while tipping his felt
gray hat, beware of that which can open a sealed jar from inside.
And the only bladder worth its brine is a swim bladder.
How the others always fail you. Never steal tuna from a dolphin,
but if you must, help him politely from the net. And on and on. . .
Until there it is-- the list. The seaweed hiding habitats from us all.
Everything a do not disturb. What you take you must put back.
If a mermaid bust or a blowhole. A phosphorescence or a fake
shark fin. Even your own good carcass, in its own good time,
shoved gently through the waves by loving hands.
The Crystallographer Reads Palms
at the Synchrotron of Knowldege
I see two doughnuts lying on top
connected by helices, and then
at six angstrom I can make out
the distant road map of your future.
To birth to sex to death
in various shapes and sizes.
But with little encouraging definition.
At five angstrom, the fuzzy edges
of the psyche become clear,
pixilated even. I can tell you why
you only desire women
who resemble your mother.
Why you’re afraid to give your
nephew a goodbye kiss. Why you
never finish anything you start.
At four the edges take on
the pattern of a well-iced cruller.
Or else, the intricate spirals of al dente
fusilli. The psychotropic drugs,
the wide sex bruises. The traffic
accidents never really your fault.
All of it criss-crossed highways
of place and time. Fallibility
under every shifting overpass.
At three, the problems of the universe
overshadow your cramped
self-absorbed rec room of a heart.
Floods and famine no matter
towards which century you turn.
Sadness. And a little money for the
lucky. And a little love for the luckier.
And death and disease for all.
A well-settled boulder crushes the chest
at two, pinning down the great collective
body of the hopeless, propping the eyes
open to unsolved mysteries of popular
science. Pyramids and hairy
monster men make sense. Witches
come down from fiberglass brooms.
At one angstrom, the wallflower cell
is a broken-down watch, its rusted
cogs and wheels too much to bear.
One longs to be large again.
Part of that sweet big lug
of a molecularly mad picture.
To grow arms and swell to the size
of the globe. Or better yet,
a carefree sybaritic universe
inside a universe inside