Saturday, June 25, 2011


What are you going to do
With those lemons?
Oh, those are left over from
When I made lemon bars.  It was
Cheaper to buy a bag of six (maybe).
They’re sitting in the fridge going bad.

Three lemons, in the bottom left drawer
Sitting on quart-sized yogurt tubs,
Mocking me each time I swing
Open the refrigerator door,
Their withering peel darker
And more brittle every time
I give in and acknowledge
Them, taunting me with the truth
That eventually I will face the
Shame of tossing them into the trash.
(Have you still not set up a
Compost jar in the kitchen?)

Decay tries to mask the scent of
Real homemade lemon bars.
I finally had made some
And they were just right.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Due Diligence

Due Diligence

Nights during my childhood, I was on duty.
Muscles tense, I memorized the exact
Position of my ankles, wrists, the hair
Limp across my neck, certain that the
Precision of my pose would shield
Me, my parents, my brothers and sisters
From catastrophe.  Each breath was
Allowed a measure of freedom to escape
But only to return with intelligence
Of the invisible kitchen, stairwell,
Basement.  I analyzed every nuance
Of scent, scrutinizing particles of air
For telltale whiffs of smoke, wondering
If it was time to get up and check.
Because I was reassured by the same
Vigilance that kept me awake and
Petrified, I was engaged in an ever-looping
Dialogue that had no off ramp.  Is there a fire
In the house,  quietly overtaking my family
Or can I relax now and fall asleep?

June 8, 2011

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Poem: Graduation


First light slips into view so subtly
We have to recite the evidence of
Invisible contours emerging
To believe that black sky has
Given way to coral-washed gray.
We turn to gather up our
History before we get going
But miss some moments.
Though they hovered interminably
During the space between
Yesterday and today, it seems
They have escaped unnoticed.
As we look behind ourselves again
I see your form rise without hesitation
And stride directly into the morning.

May 7, 2011
Mary Biddle

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Poem: Prayer for Balance

Prayer for Balance
(Learning the Discipleship Dance)

So much gravity, so much sky, as I learn to step this dance,
The ground either offering support or waiting to slap me.
I try to find a focal point to stabilize my efforts; even
Then I vacillate - do I site a near point or one in the distance?

I can hold the hand of a friend in her sick bed, but I cannot touch
The wounded faces in images gleaming from my backlit
Screen of whole families weakened to blank stares by hunger.
I am treated to 11-year-old boys showing their class the cha-cha,
But see that a mother in Arizona cries for dreams snatched away.
My cup overflows with your church, their embrace my support,
Yet a young woman in Haiti who survived a childhood of neglect
Cannot face another day fearing that the world might collapse.

Who is my neighbor? was not – is not –a rhetorical question.
When everything I touch and eat and rest upon has been
Built on the back of a sister or brother who hasn’t been deemed
Worthy of the privileges I never earned but enjoy every day, I know
I must reach out to those who cannot see my friendship but seek it. 
As I lean forward, give me the hand of a neighbor to steady my steps.

May 3, 2011
Mary Biddle

Poem: Fighting Fire

Fighting Fire

Forest fire seems an absurdly benign term for these                        
Raging, all-consuming hydra-headed beasts. 
The Young Men of Mann Gulch hardly had time to
Name what a wily monster it was that faced them when
Life was sucked away or otherwise devoured by
Sky-high scorching, leaping vacuums and hillside-wide walls of flame. 
All they thought they knew about such fire was useless. 
It turns out that instinct, raw and reflexive,
Offered escape if they could trust it, trust him.
Start a fire and lie down in the middle of it.  You’ll be safe.
He knew it, he yelled it with all the force he had, but
He could not convince his colleagues to join him so they were overcome,
A stopped watch the timeless record of their fruitless flight, and
He survived. 
Their last-second histories have become a textbook – analyzed,
Digitized and digested, blackened screams silently
Tucked away, deep in the belly of the beast.

April 28, 2011
Mary Biddle

Poem: Next Evening

Next Evening

The night before was spent at a poetry reading – We had
Spacious rooms, scoured wood floors and trim and
Gourmet chocolates – but the filling was too sweet.
The words were savory, multi-colored, bright, each speaker
Tossing surprises that we clasped contentedly to our laps.

Narratives, having been forged in the fire of memory, had
Annealed, been set aside, and now sat cool in our hands.
These were followed by meditations exhaled after steady,
Cleansing breaths of focused listening, study and walks
Through urban nature reserves, deep pockets of contemplation.

All thrilled the voice within me
Leaving a quivering string reverberating
Still twenty-four hours later so now I’m
Taking up what was only shared in past tense as
A challenge today and again today
I will write a poem
Saying yes to my desires and what I see
Putting down the clutter of to-do so I can be

April 24, 2011
Mary Biddle

Old Poems

The five poems below were written from three to eleven years ago.  I'm too lazy to make a separate post for each one.  If you're interested in reading them, happy scrolling! 

Lamentation at a Son’s First Novel
(Goodbye to the Hundred Acre Wood)
I wasn’t prepared
For your perfunctory wave
As you passed me by
Eyes sweeping tabletops and empty chairs
Searching with singular focus for
Your book.

Your book!

Your book
Was what you brought
To me
To read.

Was introducing
To a world

We walked along
A country lane
Breathing warm, easy air
You telling me your thoughts about God
I reveling in a
Christopher Robin

I was blind
To the road I walked
Leading you

Mary Davis Biddle


Driving between rows
Of winter stubble …

A massive, brown figure
Is announced
In the field on my right.
It’s the size of a small bear–
Perhaps a fugitive cow?

The rural rorschach
Calls to me,
Playing with my
Longing for
Something significant to
Rise out of the ancient
Soil and claim
Kinship with me.

As the principal
Of an imagined ballet
Its form
Segues fluidly from
Animate to mechanical

The closer I’m drawn
Toward the figure,
The more resistant
I am
To see
The flat,
Objective truth: 

A rusty metal drum
From my neighbor’s
Fire pit
Has blown
Across the road
And into the field.

Mary Davis Biddle

Plenty of Light

Before my day’s work
The first light comes
In quiet coolness
Through the southern window,
Illuminating in grey the sky
Behind leafless trees
At the near horizon.

Limbs spread
About halfway toward open palm,
Fingertips up,
They stand patiently behind
The plum thicket, still a black mass
Without distinction of branches or
Declaration of which come
From which set of roots.

After breakfast
In full morning sunshine,
Just west of the plums,
A dusting of snow
Surrounds a seven-foot pine
Beneath a pale blue sky. 

Closer to my window
Individual blades of grass,
Gleaming with melted snow,
Claim their right to
The spotlight of my gaze.

At dusk,
Returning to my seat,
I know the air and soil reverberate
With bird songs,
A passing car,
The dog’s meandering path
Where she notarized
Chipmunk trash and the boys’
Footsteps to the school bus.

My window darkens now
After time spent
Here and away,
Though outside there is still
Plenty of light.

Mary Davis Biddle

Preparing for Fruit

In the orchard for the first time
Fresh from viewing a training film
Supplied by the co-op extension
She prunes last year’s superfluous growth.
Exhilarated by her daring to learn-and-do
She feels like a medical student
Cutting into a patient for the first time.

Those branches asserted their right to grow
Through last summer’s muggy, hot haze.
Stretching determinedly toward sunlight,
They flaunted their energetic talent
Demurely shaping positive and negative space.
Glibly she denies their ambition, pursuing
Her vision of fruit – autumn’s reward.

She recites her mantra, “Once I’m sure
I’ve gone too far, that will be enough” but
Dark humor from the tilting edge
Provides no balm for ignorance.
She cuts a little more, blind to the risk of
Open wounds at the stubs of branches
Begging all assailants enter.

When finally she’s worn out, chaff of a
Novice’s blade lies scattered across the ground.
Limbs vibrant with sap this morning
Are discarded leftovers by noon.
They’ll be hauled to the burn pile at evening,
Another adventure if she dares.  She thinks
She will leave the fire for another day. 

Mary Davis Biddle with thanks to Oleta Davis Miller

Voices Found

Women gather strength into wicker baskets
Heaving to a free hip
A basket filled with

Telling stories
Of climbing crabapple trees
Pulling knees toward searching hands
Boosting core weight freely over
Freckled taupe bark

Woven from a brown-eyed gaze
Swinging skyward to
Dutch elms
Escorting pockets of light
Through pendulum leaf mazes

Whispered among spider webs in windows
Speaking private names that
Bridge two beings
Unconsciously and completely

Remembered though
Long hidden under layers of
Doubt and fear

Heard in a chorus of sisters
Singing, Listening, Singing

Voices found
Women gather strength

Mary Davis Biddle