Mary Biddinger

The Slimness of Our Chances

The delicate status of our couches.

The easily offended elbows of favorite sweaters.


A sudden note that reminds you of fifteen years ago.

Hovering in the first snow outside Hawkeye’s.


Lost like a bus in fog. Lost but still dance-ready.

Trying to memorize distinct coordinates.


Giving up in approximately seven minutes.

The unyielding nature of thinking, the hot of glass.


Battle between feeling and reason and feeling.

They call it the upper hand, but it’s always down low.


Was there even a DJ, or was the music internal?

Nightmare of an empty hive in a women’s restroom.


Nightmare of conversations in a women’s restroom.

Don’t ask me about my dress or hip bones.


Sometimes it’s downright impossible to be authentic. 

Every new sentence begins with Can I talk?


I was a hair model not a hand or helmet model.

Even my bed was from the Rent-a-Center basement.


Panic about junior high locker combinations.

Will we ever go back into a disconnected payphone. 


Untamed Thickets

I loved being tagged as other people’s wives, sometimes by other people’s wives, and by tagged I mean swatted, not tagged on the internet or with sensuous roils of Old English graffiti. When the celebrity asked me to sign his record was it vinyl or legal? I always had twelve pens or none. My cupboards either bursting with all the essentials needed to survive an apocalyptic Midwestern winter, or spare like I was living in IKEA, with hardly a noodle to eat in a flood. 


I matriculated into a degree granting program on punishments. This followed my Associates in Discipline Studies, which went by as slowly as ants. All my favorite sandwich shops closed up shop, and due to intoxication and intermittent nausea I just couldn’t fathom it. What about that one night with the faux Reuben, the waitress wearing a cherry-patterned apron as she refilled my avalanche of home-chipped chips? What could be more enduring?


My new apartment had carpet on the walls. I wasn’t sure what to think but felt a little more free playing my 90s techno mixes at odd hours. Years ago I used to hand-trim rugs the way some hand-trim their rugs. My mixtape covers were not duplicated, they were engineered. I thought about throwing it all away and working with stone, but then recalled my privilege. Everyone was trying their best to regress: paleo on the table, tending dangerous pets, sex in untamed thickets. 


I did a lot of really dumb things, like jumping out of cars and allowing my feelings to seep into the pad under the carpet. Interrupted conversations in the diner to speak about my magic, using my full name like that would make a difference. Certain nights were so hot I just loomed on stairways waiting for someone to push me aside, which isn’t a punishment like making out with a man who hurt you, in a closet filled with electrified metal hangers, and then missing it.


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Author Bio

Mary Biddinger is the author of five full-length poetry collections, including Small Enterprise and The Czar. She lives in Akron, Ohio, where she teaches at the University of Akron & NEOMFA program and edits the Akron Series in Poetry. Biddinger’s first collection of prose poems, Partial Genius, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2019.