Reclining Nudes

The collector is obsessed

with bathing women.

The painters and their students

observe their canvas backs

study their open mouths

arms up, fur exposed,

soft animals juxtaposed

against dark paintings of men

heaving in their clothes

bulky masses of coats

closed around a table.

The viewer is a man.

In dignified portraits, ladies

fix him with a start

always stern faced

under his microscope.

I wish to inspect the men.

We stare at women’s faces

like fruit we might buy

if it’s soft enough

and sweet.

Let us look openly at men.

How many girls did you paint?

Naked in their evidence —

There is no proof except

the buildings full of it

the walls bursting with it

the crowds paying for it

the man collecting it.

Where are the men undressing?

In what lush garden do they hide?

Where do they bathe and lounge

on soft grasses

skin damp with summer

caressed by blue skies

caught unaware

by the artistic eye

of whom?

Where do their coats hang

empty costumes on hooks

shed from soft bodies?

Where do they lay pink

in bed before the painter

young and fresh

and for sale?

Always we are peering in

to the private lives of women.

Interrupted at their studies

leaning to pour tea

affectionately

holding small hands

meeting on a shaded hill

gazing away at what does not gaze back —

The indifferent ocean,

A docile garden.

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I can’t draw a straight line to save my life.

“I can’t draw a straight line to save my life.”
In my mind, this is my sister’s voice
or some woman down the street or every
woman I ever met except those
annoyingly confident girls I was too
scared to emulate.

My sister is an artist, and so am I, though
I didn’t know it for a very long time and
I immediately feel the need to justify
why I can’t draw a straight line to save my life.

The boys used to draw pictures in school.
Dustin liked to draw shoes.
He thought high tops were cool, and deer
hunting, too, but he wasn’t so good at people
till he started drawing our teacher, and soon
we weren’t allowed to draw in class anymore.
But I can’t draw a straight line to save my life.

What do you do in the middle of a piece
when you know it’s going to be a shitty first draft?
Keep writing.
But I can’t draw a straight line to save my life.

Somewhere in here is a metaphor for queerness
but also for how fucking confused I am because
this is not a phase but being bisexual is actually
confusing because everyone else thinks
they know what you are, and you can’t draw
a straight line to save your life.

And you live in a world where a third of the people
want you dead (or don’t mind if the president does)
and a third don’t care and a third are running
dangerously low on fucks to give and you’re trying
not to see enemies everywhere,
to have compassion and reason and to discern between
causes and effects, but you’re constantly bombarded with
more bad news and you can’t draw a straight line
to save your life.

So I sit with pen in hand gazing out the
window and imagine the day ahead — how
I’ll get from here to night, and I
can’t draw a straight line to save my life.

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An Ex Catholic Goes to Confession

 

This poem may still be in the midst of the editorial process. I don’t really know for sure. I like this version, and I think it’s fun to read out loud. I’ve been struggling a little bit lately because I feel that poetry is really best shared out loud more than on a page, or at least that there needs to be some greater dimension of interaction between the writer, the material, and the reader. So, I’ve been using social media such as Instagram and Snapchat to share. The trouble this time is that those platforms are designed for shorter messages than this. Hmm… always experimenting. Always learning.

In case you’d rather read the poem yourself, here’s the full text.

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. 
I haven't been to confession since
the fifth grade. 
I came here to confess that I have
left behind every scrap 
of faith I ever had
and I wish to account for it. 
I want you to know that I prayed to your god
and I told him what I was going to do
and he did not stop me.
I knelt twice a week at the feet of that poor man
and sculpted his ribs with my eyes
and untied in my mind
the shred of cloth at his hips. 
I had his blood on my lips
and he did not ask me to stay. 
Sweet child of a man, he rolled his eyes
to God and prayed himself away
so you could take his name in vain -- but
he did not ask me to stay. 
I want you to know that I don’t miss
the Sunday morning fashion show or your
admonitions or the hypnotic repetition
of unthinking prayers in our
monotone drone -- worker bees stoned 
on incense and wine, 
keeping an empty ritual just to fill the time
repeating the spell of our own binding
I believe I believe I believe
we loved our endless litany
of saints and sins all taken in 
the legato of suburban life. 
I want you to know that in the desert outside your home
where you said I’d be alone, I found
an ocean of love like you’ve never known
and I dove right the fuck in and it was good. 
And out here, none of us are who you said we were. 
We are so much more. 
I want you to know I’m going away, 
and I’m not coming back. 

I probably will do a bit of editing, and I’ll maybe change the first line since it doesn’t create quite the tone I want to start with. I don’t actually seek forgiveness, as the poet or as the speaker of this poem, so I find that line misleading and a little cliched. The reason I’ve kept it this way so far is that I don’t know exactly what I want to change it to and that I was trained with great emphasis as a child that all confessions were supposed to start that way. I’ll let it rest for now and see what comes up with a little time.

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Introductory Metaphor

A post shared by Mary Hendrie (@msdirt) on

The Living Room

a pair of hand made socks
knit with cheap, colorful yarn
the mittens not quite the same size
a vase about to topple on my table
as the cats race-chase through the house
chirping and trilling at each other
their joy for grey days and wet food.
a couch full of hangars and clothes I need to put away
lit dramatically by the window
pillows that have been laid upon so lovingly they're flat.
a painting by my sister
and At-at in a hat with Mickey Mouse ears
and a skull whose brain has been replaced
with a number of dice.

Carrie is taking a creative writing class in school this semester, and I’m blatantly stealing her assignment prompts for my own use. In this case, the assignment was to write a poem introducing oneself to the class via a metaphor. I am a mess. A total disaster area of love and happiness, but a mess nonetheless. I particularly relate to the ceramic skull in which we keep our gaming dice.

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birdhouse (Thanksgiving 2014)

birdhouse

the conversational rustle
of 50 cent newspapers
the quiet landscape waits
squirrels find us irrelevant
an inconvenience

elevate elevate elevate

the rarified mind of a scavenger

the way he walks is a mood
the mystery of modern appliance
it is impossible to be with you
words must not escape me

the family apologist
the broken hearted nihilist
the jovial atheist
the good one

a lake of conversation in the morning
a spill of coffee
confusion about dishes
the briefest appearance of a monk

the companionship of strangers
the deep and hollow rumble
the sweet cruelty of those who don’t lie

edit
memories become Truth
stories become Identity
quietly quietly

I do not know my place
the comfort of running water
and soap
everyone has to do the dishes

we have everything we ever wished for
we have learned not to wish so much

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