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Poetry

Mary Catherine Harper

Harper_2015 _squareMary Catherine Harper, originally from the drylands of Southwest Kansas—the edge of the Rockies, the expanse of the Four Corners desert—has made her home at the confluence of the Auglaize and Maumee rivers in Ohio and organizes and reads poetry at the yearly SwampFire Retreat of artists and writers at 4 Corners Gallery in Angola, Indiana. Most recently, her poetry has appeared in The Comstock Review, Cold Mountain Review, Old Northwest Review, Pudding Magazine, SLAB, MidAmerica, Print-Oriented Bastards, and The Offbeat, and her poem “Muddy World” won the 2013 Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize. Her Some Gods Don’t Need Saints chapbook was recently published. http://mcharper.faculty.defiance.edu

The Fall

Maybe a dance on an ice-polished surface
is a kind of truth,
not a denial but a glide across appearance,
an invitation to an honestly averted gaze.

I still have the skates that remember her feet,
still feel her heat,
still notice something about the last time
she ice skated,
she curving into me and saying something
about the cost of mothering,
something broken lose as I fell
from her body,
something about a ruined pelvis,
or was it something about what she saw
under the ice,
a body with frozen-open eyes,
flat and dull.

Maybe listening to strangers in a darkened room
is a good substitute,
the theft of someone else’s life,
no need to interrogate an eye,
the sound of the story enough
to work its way in.

Like the story I write now to soften
the edges of the past,
the story of the squirrel I stopped to watch
just yesterday on my daily walk,
her body upright,
a perfect silhouette,
her tail curved against her head,
her one eye full of morning light,
seeing me
and remaining sideways
to take me in
with her vast peripheral view,
and me looking back at her
directly,
falling into her glassy black eye.

The Art of Love

How much easier to limn dead things,
every variation in skin tone,
the discolored fingernail,
the gunmetal gray hair of a corpse,

than sketch a living person,
an exercise in disproportion,
the living leg too long,
fattened waist too thick,
expressive face misshapen,
empty breast too slack,
uplifted arm a blur,
old body slumped,

fingers closed in on themselves
and weak with tremors,
useless for holding another’s hand,

all the messy manners of living
complicating the artist’s craft,
distractions from the art of love.

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