Frances McCue

Mary of the Woods, of the City: A Prayer

My poems gone now, glass panes
laid side to side, a once-tumbled finish
to our song. Arcade, corridor, crystal palace

amidst the trees. The woman wanders
the grounds and gathers the deer.
Along the road, no electrical wires.

Just the wash of leaves and pine needles.
Water from the well is fetid; salt invades it.
She stands at farm gates or hovers

near troughs. Never is she at the barn.
Never is she master of the fences.
If you could see her, she'd hold ropes

and wear boots. But you can't. Which is
how you know she's there. If she appeared
you'd confuse her with a human being.y

It's enough to choke on, all that presence
un-evidenced. It's enough to write
with heart and earth, to make glass houses

where stones are gifts. Smash and catch
shards. Wrap your cloak in cross-fire.
You know she's out there. Blessings, then.

Mother and Clone

She was born with a label attached to her toe.
Alive this one, the carbon copy of her mother
but not the same. Already gone: the tenement,
father in the porkpie hat. They move home:
just the one of them: mother and clone.

New Anthropology

The Therapist's Couch

First you lie on her couch.
You leave your shoes on.
Smudge, smudge.
She watches this and says nothing.
You watch her watching.
Full of ghastly things, finally, you'll
speak as though releasing birds,
lifting the words overhead with your fingers.
This woman stares back at you
and the birds circle, looking for weather.

The Therapist's Sweater

The room is cold. Your skin is giving in.
Only the therapist has a sweater.
You are in a tank top. She watches you shiver
and cross your arms. Goosebumps.
"I'm cold," you say. "Brrrr."
"I see that you are cold," says the therapist.
It's an impasse. The sweater stays
on the back of her chair.
You will never ask for it. She will never give.

The Therapist's Other Patients

For awhile, you did not believe in them
the others who passed. But they passed and passed
like duckies in a tub. Bobble, bobble
they go, out to the street. Here they come,
in from the rain. That they sit on your couch,
use your Kleenex, converse with your therapist —
it's just too much. You bring in vinyl covers and
drape the room: the couch, the floor, her little table.
You even lay the plastic over the therapist.
There she is, waving from underneath!
When the coast is clear, you crinkle the wrapping
until you find the spot to sit. You are tucking yourself
into a sheath. Bless the layers, the people-less relief!

Frances McCue, artistic director and co-founder of Richard Hugo House (a community center for the literary arts in Seattle), is a poet, art reviewer, essayist, teacher and an arts administrator. Frances was a winner of the Barnard New Women Poets Prize in 1992, and her book, The Stenographer's Breakfast , was published by Beacon Press.