mary ellen

Here I am, settling fifty or so submissions from the faithful before next month’s open reading period, reading for a new summer issue in the midst of winter, reading from earnest stacks of poems and stories and postings from the Rialto.

Why do I read? I read from the fact I love you. I read from the fact I don’t understand you. I read from the fact I wished you wrote more often. This is what I want: Make your art every day. Wink your big world into my small one. Turn your speeches into simple conversations. Live your moment. Tell me a story. Make me wish myself out of my own small town. Seduce.

The poet Mary Ellen Redmond wrote recently and sent along a festive seven-pointed star made of colored tissues, and a half dozen oversized paper snowflakes to cheer me up. “A little bit of glue dabbed on the back allows them to stick to windows,” she said. Mary Ellen had them all over her cottage, and confided, “The star is translucent.”

Mary Ellen also said she was eager for her son’s return from Guam for the Holidays. He and his machinist mates had been living twenty or so fathoms below the surface pimping their rod—a Los Angeles Class Fast Attack sub—and adding to their tattoo menageries in their spare hours. Ryan had a new indigo bird and a new fish that Mary Ellen was excited to see. She thought she might use them to cover her new chapbook The Ocean Effect.

Her manuscript is well-named. Mary Ellen’s poems have pauses and troughs and thrills. You feel that if you stopped moving your arms and legs you might drown in them. One of her poems she sent us last year takes up the old tradition of the blizzard. Mary Ellen should know about these whorls on the weather report, having lived half her life way deep down Cape Cod. It’s a place that requires a good collection of hats. The wind never ceases, and something—rain, snow, sea spray, chrome sunlight, deviled sand—seems to always be hitting your face.

Tiny Afflictions

After I’m finished begging with the pillow, after
I’m done cursing the piles of snow, even
while I cry and heave, I admit,

I know now, I am a liar and a thief.

This is how I come to these epiphanies. Not
with my therapist whose face is too familiar.
Not in a confessional behind a velvet curtain.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have tiny afflictions?
A small plague to rid us of a select few?
A little bout of amnesia?
A brief entanglement with something terminal to remind

I am alive.

Snow hasn’t stopped for days,
floats down like a soft confection,
coating my house, my yard,
turning everything white and sweet.

Bless me father.
Forgive me.

I have been asleep for half my life.