POETRY: Update On Mary, by Mary Szybist

Mary always thinks that as soon as she gets a few more things done and finishes the dishes, she will open herself to God.

At the gym Mary watches shows about how she should dress herself, so each morning she tries on several combinations of skirts and heels before retreating to her waterproof boots.  This takes a long time, so Mary is busy.

Mary can often be observed folding the laundry or watering the plants.  It is only when she has a simple, repetitive task that her life feels orderly, and she feels that she is not going to die before she is supposed to die.

Mary wonders if she would be a better person if she did not buy so many almond cookies and pink macaroons.

When people say “Mary,” Mary still thinks Holy Virgin!  Holy Heavenly Mother!  But Mary knows she is not any of those things.

Mary worries about not having enough words in her head.

Mary fills her cupboards with many kinds of teas so that she can select from their pastel labels according to her mood: Tuscan Pear, Earl Grey Lavender, Cheery Rose Green.  But Mary likes only plain red tea and drinks it from morning to night.

Mary has too many silver earrings and likes to sort them in the compartments of her drawer.

Someday Mary would like to think about herself, but she’s not yet sure what it means to think, and she’s even more confused about herself.

It is not uncommon to find Mary falling asleep on her yoga mat when she has barely begun to stretch.

Mary sometimes closes her eyes and tries to imagine herself as a door swung open.  But it is easier to imagine pink macaroons—

Mary likes the solemn titles on her husband’s thick books.  She feels content and sleepy when he reads them beside her at night—The Works of Saint Augustine, Critique of Judgment, Paradigm Change in Theology—but she does not want to read them.

Mary secretly thinks she is pretty and therefore deserves to be loved.

Mary tells herself that if only she could have a child she could carry around like an extra lung, the emptiness inside her would stop gnawing.

It’s hard to tell if she believes this.

Mary believes she is a sincere and serious person, but she does not even try to pray.

Some afternoons Mary pretends to read a book, but mostly she watches the patterns of sunlight through the curtains.

On those afternoons, she’s like a child who has run out of things to think about.

Mary likes to go out and sit in the yard.  If she let herself, she’d stare at the sky all day.

The most interesting things to her are clouds.  See, she watches them even by moonlight.  Tonight, until bedtime, we can let her have those.

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