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Mary Helen Callier

The Procession

We’d walked circles all morning

in our new blue shoes. We

were learning to love

the middle

part best. By now

it was certain

there would not

be an end; nothing loud

and final, destitute,

only the long

archaic creak

of a screen

swinging shut. Love

or whatever love became

our cover for,

the infant we

forgot to feed,

was scrawling

its hand in the tall

grass beside us

and the dusty spot in the back

where we kept the books

sealed with living, sealed

with what we meant to do

but never did would never

stop expanding, growing

hard and luminous

because of all the damage.

Don’t you remember

how the weeks spiraled

how the months dwindled

how that black moth landed

on my lap while I

was sleeping?

It dragged its awkward wings

across my belly

destroying itself

in a trail

of inscrutable dust. What

is the material

substance of grief?

The driftwood piles

on the side of the eddy

monumental and stricken

the driftwood piles

on the side of the eddy

and the hawk on the pole

with the fish in its talons forgets

the finch in the low

bush beside it.

How is it we try

and never learn

how to love

one another?

We are devoured

by what

didn’t happen. The mist

crowns the air.

The hawk vanishes.



At night I stay alone

while my friend goes out

with her new boyfriend.

She loves the way he

pays for everything

but he scares her

when he fucks her.

“It’s not the idea of the thing,”

she tells me, “but the real

life thing itself.”

All the beauty

and the violence

of the world

is in the details.

My mother

resells things we drag up

from the dump,

we have a storage unit full

of shit nobody wants,

we live in a place

nobody has heard of

in a part of the world

nearly everyone

hates. Mars

is that little

red light flashing.

It makes me sad

to think my lover

may never see

a shooting star.

I swim in the cove

where the refuse

builds up. Why

should my body be

any different?

Men come see me

in their flat

bottomed boats.

They catch bass and crappie

that hide in the confines

of logs. Once there was a giant

snapping turtle—

I watched two boys sink

a pitchfork deep

into its back.

All the beauty

and the violence

of the world is detail:

the passion

flower grows until

the fence no longer opens.

Some people live

their whole lives simply

waiting to be touched.


Mary Helen Callier received her MFA from Washington University in St. Louis where she was an Olin Fellow and a winner of the Howard Nemerov Prize in poetry. Her poems have appeared in Ghost City Review, Twyckenham Notes, and elsewhere. She currently serves as the Junior Fellow in poetry at WashU and co-edits The Revue portion of The Spectacle Magazine.

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