Saturday, November 28, 2009


We know it has been used before:

deepest center, old bones,

the remains of fire.

A narrow mouth, dirt floor packed and smoothed.

Rushlights along one wall.

Paint from mud and sap and stone.

All of us know the dances. Most of us

remember the words.

We wait for the cold, the darkest night.

They haven’t found us: we’ve learned to be that quiet,

slipping between the winter trees,

whisking our tracks away.

It’s our oldest place, hidden

in the woods where they never go

for fear of the bears

who prowl the edges in the dark--

clawmarks pressed deep in the wet ground,

their long memories keeping us safe.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


(written after taking too many Facebook quizzes)
Of course King David
had lots in common with Ophelia.
Both liked to sing.
Both had difficult boyfriends
involved in dark plots. Both
had trouble handling loss.
And Ophelia and the King
had a kind of I-Love-
Lucy approach to life--
plunge right in.
It doesn’t matter if
you don’t have the right clothes.
But John Locke?
Well now, he pulls me all
together, with his belief
that everyone starts clean
and accumulates layers
of life, like laughs or
petticoats, or kingdoms
and complicated wives.


Thursday, November 19, 2009


Go early, our friends told us,

just before sunrise, when the light

above the mountains is a pink line

that slowly turns yellow, then gold,

and the sun sends up a long pale pillar.

Then the geese will rise, calling,

against the sky.

You can hear the whisper of their wings.

We went to see the geese,

early, Orion and the waning sickle moon

still in the deep blue sky. We heard

very far away, the geese muttering

in a low wet place, waiting for dawn.

The sky turned pink, and the sun

sent up its shaft of light, and the gray

clouds thickened and the light

shut down. We stood in the shelter

against the south wind. The geese

we came to see did not rise.

Overhead in the rafters, little birds

were waking: a grackle, house sparrows,

one young brown cowbird. They shook

themselves, preened their feathers,

murmured their unthrilling music--

ordinary birds, plain birds,

in the gray morning,

waking one by one.


This was published in Penwood Review, Fall, 2008

Saturday, November 14, 2009


~after a discussion with fellow poets about the uses of euphemism

If shit’s not a poetic word,

then how about excrete?

How else can one describe what’s left

of things we creatures eat?

For water one must often “make”

urine ‘s not elegeeic;

and piss though not poetic,

is onomatopeeic.

(Sorry about that.)


Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Mile high glass mountain,

enthroned on the peak

the jeering Muse in her Unattainable Princess mode.

She is eating a melon, spitting out the seeds.

Basaltic monolith set down by an alien god

in the middle of the narrow way

between the abyss and the infinite seething swamp

Fierce dark angel with a sword thin as a laser

darting to and fro, to and fro,

severing all connections

the strands of the web

synapses in my brain

sinews in my hand

Little wooden cubes

painted with apples, balls, clowns,

letters upper and lower case




Mary F. C. Pratt, published in The Kept Writer, July, 2002

Monday, November 9, 2009


The words given voice inside the mind . . .can be gentle and elliptical,

what the prophets called BAT QOL,


-Laurie R. King

You’d never gone searching,

never looked outside the pleasant space,

that one familiar room behind stone walls:

the white-clothed table, long benches,

faces in the brilliant windows all serene,

the heavy silent door.

There was never any thing you needed

or even thought about, out there, before.

Do you still believe in God?

You have seen the young red squirrels emerge

from the abandoned beehive in the oak.

Their mother watched them tumble

in last year’s leaves, the spring grasses below.

When the smallest came to her, searching for milk,

she laid paws on its head, pushed it away.

It ran down the tree again, scrabbled in the duff.

One good dream at last in your restless nights--

you awakened the Daughter of the Voice of God

forgotten by her father in an airy cottage.

She was small, her curly hair rumpled on the pillow.

You traveled with her through the forest,

carried her across deep drifts of snow,

down the last glacier to your kitchen fire.

Be my strong rock, you used to pray.

A castle to keep me safe.

But the windows have shattered into shards

and the walls came tumbling down.

The forest was so much bigger than we knew.

MFCP, June 16, 2003

Saturday, November 7, 2009


We went walking, maybe on your bones;

the keepers of the relics will not tell.

July: two weeks for the news to come

and you named the place:

your future hope declared.

Foundations, breastworks of gray stone,

the star-shaped fort.

Oval spring at the cliff base, cold green water.

Autumn: sticky mud, limestone,

stumps and long yellow sedges.

Wind across bare ground.

Winter: no shoes.

Smallpox, no cure.

Holding down the fort,

building a bridge across the frozen lake--

twenty-one cribs of stone--

to Ticonderoga across the narrows

where in summer again--the glorious Fourth--

your comrades woke to see British cannon on Sugar Hill,

their futility.

Flight to Hubbardton, Bennington.

Delay the nail that won the war,

or so we like to think.

We mark the broken walls,

weeds and sedges overgrown,

limestone forest returned.

We went walking on your bones;

no marker but the curving cedar arms,

no blessing but the falling snow.

MFCP, March 16, 2005

Tuesday, November 3, 2009



This must never be forgotten: life goes on.

Irena Sendler has been named a Righteous Gentile:

she rescued 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto.

Names were written on slips of paper, buried in a jar under an appletree.

Irena Sendler has been named a Righteous Gentile:

elaborate false identifications, map of the sewers, every city wall.

Names were written on slips of paper, buried in a jar under an appletree.

Because this will soon be over I will give my child to you.

Elaborate false identifications, map of the sewers, every city wall;

babies were wrapped as packages, carried away on the trolley--

because this will be over soon I will give my child to you--

parceled child cried out in Yiddish; driver evacuated the trolley to save.

Babies were wrapped as packages, carried away on the trolley;

older children remembered: parents, the terror, all that was lost.

Parceled child cried out in Yiddish; driver evacuated the trolley to save:

ordinary people, their terrible decisions, hidden lives, their shame.

Older children remembered: parents, the terror, all that was lost;

babies adopted, baptized, alive, brittle family names vanished away.

Ordinary people, their terrible decisions, hidden lives, their shame.

Man hiding children shot his neighbors who came to say they knew.

Babies adopted, baptized, alive, brittle family names vanished away--

because I might be killed I will let my baby go--

Man hiding children shot his neighbors who came to say they knew.

This must never be forgotten: life goes on.


I was a twig of apple

torn from my tree--

it bled.

Trimmed and grafted

I was fed

foreign sap like bitter water.

In spring, the bees.

My petals fell

but I did not die.

In autumn

I wonder why

other branches

bear yellow fruit

while mine,

on every swollen fingertip,

is red as blood.


They took me in: kind.

I took their name; Their Jesus-

mark in the center of my forehead.

They gave me future; I took it

in both my hands: hiding, silence,

all of it, the price.

No picture of my parents.

I cannot now remember

their faces. But the parting:

my mother did not cry.

Go, she said, just go.

My father would not release

my hand. We’ll bring him back

the woman said, over and over:

I promise. We’ll bring him

back. When this is over

I promise we’ll bring him back.


Darkness around me,

a dream of sound:

rustle of paper


voices muffled

as though through ash

weeping far away

When I cry out I am alive, afraid

in a tongue I do not know,

a lurch and rumble,

swift silence,

quick steps.

I move rocking

above the ground.


Yes, I knew what they were up to but

I didn’t much care:

my life barren enough

in the gray of this city,

the damned trolley,

every day the stinking crowd.

Fewer people--maybe not

a bad idea, in the long run.

But it was a baby voice

like my daughter’s

just learning to speak.

I don’t know what she said

but I knew she was scared.

I didn’t think--just did

what any decent father would do.


So often on the steps or streets

we spoke: How is his wife? His child

with measles, or the price of bread.

They would help me, I thought,

if I were in need, and I, them.

But at my door that morning,

softly saying they knew,

and those children still asleep:

so frightened, so small,

by now their parents--

well, who can imagine,

and who wants to believe--? The gun

I’d kept in the cupboard close, in case.

What else could I have done?


Now is my time

(or now the time is mine).

There are children in my city

(although I live outside).

Danger, danger,

and what will the powers do

and what will I do

and what am I doing

in my time?

What am I doing

with my time?

Mary F. C. Pratt

I learned about this remarkable woman at about this time of year, and wrote this group of poems. Several appeared in the HABURAH NEWSLETTER, (Middlebury, Vermont) in February,. 2006.)