Mary Biddinger

Let’s Do It Again

I used to ask for a story of before I was born.
All the cars were green or brown. Men knew

the type of hat to wear in a cigar shop, shoes
to walk a carpeted stairway without looking

like a solicitor, like a pimp. Goldenrod shag.
Avocado refrigerator and stove. How come

every house was made to look primordial?
Perhaps to lower the common denominator.

I am still not sure why I was ever a child
except for the unavoidable: generate hopes

then watch them drop to the floor like gold
sconces over a stone fireplace. The shadow

box one family owned was the same family
minus children; in other words, drinks, sex,

Rod Stewart, floor-length sheer treatments
on every window, unprovoked billowing.

I wanted to shake that box, but girls should
be ever docile, like a pack of damp lambs.

Before I was born there were extra rivets
in the leather, and nobody charged more for

tuna packed in oil. Most things were packed
in oil, anyway. My shoulders no exception.

Baby lotion and daisy polyester. The belief
that every bedroom would be painted special.

A basement was always for kids and dogs.
We were only blocks away from the moon.


Risk Management Memo: The Service Industry & You

Once you get over the whole “three hundred mouths
daily” hang up, work in an industrial dish room

can be much like all that sex you took for granted
back in Oklahoma, where there was little else

and even the old redbud was considered puritanical
in its seasonal desires. Or perhaps the forks

that skewer you daily are not direct and horrifying
reminders of the smallpox vaccination scar

you mistook on a man of yesteryear as his stubbing
out a blunt on his own arm. Silk screen his

likeness on all your t-shirts from 1982, and a flame
is all you need to recreate the great bowling

alley inferno that left even the most prophetic local
stoners bereft. And when you storm out

on your antepenultimate day on the line and scream
about your art, nobody knows you had any.

Except maybe Darius and his mysterious sugar bowl.
Sometimes teenagers run away and towns

hold a farewell parade with abundant paper streamers.
The man with the scar misused the term

“Rococo,” but he did it playfully, like to start a fight,
so that is why you’re still silk screening

his likeness on the bay window of your underpants.
There are all kinds of people you can

partially waste your life with. The woman slashing
her boyfriend’s tires might have suffered

through several hundred butter pats and overdone
dover sole, or its sexual equivalent.

Sometimes it’s not the force of hot water that holds
all the juice glasses in obedience.


Mary Biddinger is the author of the poetry collections Prairie Fever (Steel Toe Books, 2007),Saint Monica (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), O Holy Insurgency (Black Lawrence Press, 2013), and A Sunny Place with Adequate Water (Black Lawrence Press, 2014). She is also co-editor of The Monkey and the Wrench: Essays into Contemporary Poetics (U Akron Press, 2011). Her poems have recently appeared in Crazyhorse, Guernica, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, and Sou’wester, among others. Biddinger teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Akron, where she edits the independent literary magazine Barn Owl Review, as well as the Akron Series in Poetry and the Akron Series in Contemporary Poetics.