Hayden's Ferry Review


Contributor Spotlight: Mary Cisper

Squinting like Star-Eyed Grass

It was a store, I was looking for a gift.  Upon picking up the object and asking how it was done, a dismissive shrug.  Which lead to an importunate puppy feeling.  What’s weird: vulnerable and vulture are probably from the same root, vellere, “to pluck, to tear”.  I still wonder how the hummingbird was painted on the inside of the narrow-necked flask.  (Reader, I bought it anyway.)  

Middle of the night, camping in the Sierras.  The moon is a Coleman lantern.  In the pearly, penetrating, not exactly gloamy part of evening, I will not trip on a root or a bear.  It’s bright enough to read by.  Sometimes poems forget about each other, being second cousins twice removed, although vocabulary can bilocate.  Glómung, Old English, from glóm, twilight, shortened by Keats in 1821 to gloam in “La Belle Dame sans Merci”:  “I saw their starved lips in the gloam.”

Gloom, a sullen look.  A surly person.

There is a bridge where I currently live on which it is written make something useful.  The first time I crossed it, it made me feel guilty.  In turbulent flow, a point continuously undergoes changes in both magnitude and direction; in other words, anfractuous, full of windings and turnings.  Those otherworldly flowers, suggesting outer planets especially in moonlight, and witnessed in the same location as the nuthatches, are known as Ranger Buttons, capable of reaching five feet.  Extremely poisonous, says the guidebook.  An idea starts with a feeling, sometimes a phone call from my sister.  Unread book on my shelf, Where Does the Weirdness Go?, I will read you. 

I am sorry you didn’t like my dog.  Thus, poetry answers the need for transmutation: “ritual acts differ from technical acts in having in all instances some expressive or symbolic element in them.” 

Back-formation, “the formation of what looks like a root-word from an already existing word which might be (but is not) a derivative of the former.”  Burgle, for example, is a back-formation of burglar.  It’s tricky saying where things come from—one steals around in darkness not knowing the path until a bridge appears.  Before beginning the puja, swamiji spoke on the necessity for being wholly present to keep energy flowing.  I knew I’d dented the morning’s satsang.  I still wish I could sing.


Mary Cisper's poems, "Durga On Her Brass Lion" and "The Coy Heart," appeared in Issue 56 of Hayden's Ferry Review.

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