Mary Ann Larkin



                  for Shirley and Hazel


The old beauties gasp onto cushions

at churches or art shows,

reach for each other's hands.

"Lovely to see you," they say, bending

each to each—once-plumaged birds

after a long migration.

"My daughter . . . " "my son . . ."

they say, or "The house is sold."

Old quarrels shadow away.

A vast tenderness engulfs them

as of survivors

who know what's been lost:

a peacock feather,

rivalries fierce and narrow-eyed,

skin like satin,

the sea, the fires, the dunes,

their babies' flesh.

They become again

vessels in full sail, wind-blown,

sun-struck.  Heads move closer,

eyes quench a thirst

they'd almost forgotten.

"Come and see me," they call,

though they have been seen.

"I will.  I will," they lie,

as keepers trundle them away.



The poet sits in his easy chair,

hope vanishing

like the steam from his chipped mug.

He's waiting for his blue-eyed girl,

the one with the honey-colored hair.

The clock ticks.

She'll stop it

when she comes.  And she will come,

except—there's always a last time,

and the tart will never tell him:  This is it

or good-bye.  She's all good news,

all shimmer and glow, her voice

bubbling on and on, until

he's young again, caught up

in the threads of her hair

which he'll follow

into the maze of himself,

to the place where only she

knows the turns—the last time

as good as the first.



Mary Ann Larkin is a poet, writer, teacher, and former fund-raising and publications consultant.  The Coil of the Skin, a book of poems, was published by Washington Writers' Publishing House in 1982.  Publications also include four chapbooks:  White Clapboard, by Carol Allen of Philadelphia; The DNA of the Heart, with Patric Pepper, by Pond Road Press; A Shimmering That Goes with Us by Finishing Line Press; and gods & flesh, by Plan B Press in early 2007.  Her poems have appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, New Letters, Poetry Greece and other magazines, as well as in more than twenty local and national anthologies, including America in Poetry, Ireland in Poetry, and Loving, a poetry and art series published by Harry Abrams of New York.  She has taught writing and literature in a number of colleges and universities, most recently at Howard University in Washington, D.C.  Her involvement with poetry includes co-founding the Big Mama Poetry Troupe, a group of feminist poets, who gave sixty performances from New York to Chicago in the seventies; giving numerous workshops and readings in schools, churches, jails and saloons; and writing for Foundation News, National Public Radio, and The Watershed Foundation, producers of literary radio programming.   In 2003, she and her husband, Patric Pepper, founded Pond Road Press, which published its third book in 2006: Tough Heaven: Poems of Pittsburgh by Jack Gilbert.  Larkin grew up in Pittsburgh and now lives in Washington, D.C., and North Truro, Massachusetts.



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