Four Poems by Mary B. Moore

Mary B. Moore

Mary B. Moore

Mary B. Moore’s forthcoming book is Amanda Chimera (Madville Publishing). Previous poetry books include Dear If (Orison Books 2022); Flicker, Dogfish Head Award 2016; The Book Of Snow, Cleveland State U 1998, and prize-winning chapbooks Amanda and the Man Soul and Eating the Light. Poems are forthcoming or have appeared in POETRY, Quartet, Catamaran a Literary Reader, South Dakota Review, ArtemisBirmingham Poetry Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, NELLE, Terrain, Calyx, & more. Major awards include NELLE’s Three Sister’s Prize, Birmingham Poetry Review’s Collins’ Award, and the second place award in Nimrod’s 2017 Pablo Neruda Prize.


My ridge, immune
to a conical mountain’s majesty,

still shares its gist: It elevates being high
and aspires others. Rags to riches,

High life to low? No.
Upthrust, eroded, it’s shaped

like an ear aiming sideways, or
a curved wing that says, here,

shelter here, dear eerie one.
A chorus of insects hums the letter M

as I sit outside and write another letter
to my mother who isn’t now.

M begins everything:
mother, mountain, metamorphosis.

A mother’s powers are God-ish:
kiss or kill, name or maim or both.

I am small again, thinning,
age shrinking me. I’m irk,

angst, and I tick like a clock
when my mandibles

open or shut. Go ahead; ghost me.
I’m already haunted

by what I don’t know
I know, my gaunt

old woman body still learning
big mind, mountain mind.

No wonder I slip between am
and imagine, and dream.

A woman’s round face appears,
blue-eyed, her skin sun-ruddied:

she leans into me, so close
I can see her dark brown freckles–

Earth to earth. It’s alright, she says,
my voice jarring me awake.

There is no mother but here.





Relinquishing Elegy

The ghost fox is more and more
weightless like the spaces
the red-gold maple leaves burned into skies.
She circulates the spaces the leaves
relinquish, where the day-stars float–
lit leaf-dust, ash, bits of bark
and blue petals, fox dust.
Every random coming
once held her in thrall,
if only for the wince of an eye–
before flinch, spasm, howl.
She’s even seeped into the fireflies,
yellow-green embers
still burning their longing to be.





Smoke Elegy

—California wildfire smoke travelled East to Appalachia

If I paint in oils the neighbor’s yellow bricks–
ochre tinged rust, a ruined sun’s color–

and mix our red bricks’ ruse–maroon,
red-brown, uncivil battlefields’

ensanguined earth fired to a fare-thee-well–
can I forestall the choke and smear,

the smoke’s dour and dismal?
If I conjure my daughter’s

hands gesturing birds as she speaks
the shapes she forms then empties in air

like the jilted clothes
she outgrew–can I reprieve

the grieving, and hold her, safe as houses,
before the slippage into smoke

and soot, the black petals flaming
a half-tumbled wall. Soon the world will become

all soot flowers, black poppies swaying in rows,
lakes, seas of them. Didn’t I until a minute ago believe

like my daughter at three or four
that the backyard blue bells, pokeweed’s purple berries,

their dark once milked to make ink,
even bricks, emanated love,

and nothing would hurt, burn,
or smother the radiance

the smoke is diminishing the circle of?






Smoke Elegy, Coal

Keeps the Lights On
say the TV ads here in coal country.

This week, Tahoe Basin’s trees lit up–
fire auroras, geysers–

Jeffreys Pine, Ponderosa, Sugar Pine.
On the weather maps, their smoke laves

the continent eastward
to Appalachia. It’s shaped like tongues

or leaves, flannel-suit gray, funereal crepe
where the huge plumes overlap.

When the smoke is at high tide,
we can’t decline to inhale

Muir Woods, coastal live oak
and their galls, Hwy 1’s flower

farms, commercial and multi-colored,
Sonoma’s vineyards.

You say, Mail’s here.
I’ll get it, and the g’s clot your throat–

cedars’ zig-zag silhouettes
snag the vowels, scrub oaks burl

the consonants and–who knows–
hoes, oboes, shovels, horse-tail ferns’

green-haired flutes, odes
and their notebooks, some with codas.

Did you know our lungs, anatomized,
look like trees growing little round sacs–

the alveoli, clustered like grapes?
The outsides are fish-shaped

or like islands shaped like fish
containing trees.

Will the sommeliers someday tell
how ash nuances cabernet–

the term is terroir–burnt notes
of tan oak, puma, mountain bluebird?

At least we can name the missing.
Here, a few crows, shiny and blue-black-green,
bob and dance the pin-oak’s

thigh-thick limbs.
One grooms, head under a wing.

He is black light
and cloaks his own darkness.

Smart birds, they know us all, humans,
cats, dogs; they eat whatever,

veggies, grains, meat.
O, beautiful carbon birds, omnivores like us,

the world is your table, your oven,
and ours, who have turned terra to terror

we breathe. My chest aches.