Marjorie Maddox

Alexander McKenzie

I Swim at the Y

Ten blocks from the lake, the building—
near-empty—stands: brick survivor. The other
swimmers are pumping out basements, sucking up
liquid that sucked up albums and cards
stacked too-low on shelves below
the water mark. I dive down

into the blue that isn’t the brown
crowded with jams, rising
up to roofs and helicopter rescues,
up to more of the same sleek rain
in training for disaster, winning
our losses too easily,

winning our dishes, baby cribs,
a telephone directory. A drowning dog
gulps and goes under. Mud flakes off
stranded trees, swamps the sewers.
The bloated float by still dripping
into my wet underworld of chlorine.

Then their muted singing.

No, that’s me, just last week,
screaming into disaster.


One must have the mind of wind
to wind along a line as thin as whispers

between night breezes, a mind that stops
and drops into caverns, or picks up to whistle

you back home from where you lost
your long trail of words in a tornado

thick with tangled thoughts. To chase
cyclones, see into the being of Chinooks—

mind you—that is the mind’s whiff and whisk,
flutter and flurry, blast and blow. The zephyr

of sentences in a puff of poem:
the blessed drafts that make the mind go.


Forty days and forty nights of this
rat-a-tat-tatting on my water-logged brain
is just what I ordered to pry open
the flood gates and let the drip-drip-dripping begin
again on this barnacle-encrusted (brain)stormed out
but crisp as a sailor’s tunic, vast expanse of blank
sailing toward whatever falls off the edge
of adventure into the sound of
forty clear days of rain,
pooling up and out,
into the smell of now.

                Marriage Counselor Killed by Her Husband, July, 2010, Williamsport Sun Gazette

that nanosecond when joy turns
to understanding, when all
memorized books and practiced
advice finally stab denial—Tonya,

when did you begin to dream
the knife raised high
in that mortgaged garage?
When did the mind force the heart
to know what everyone else knew—
even you were fooled into love?

Months after you mouthed “I do”?
Days after the fist hit?
The minute your son—
mercifully pushed out and abandoned
on that Cleveland street corner—
turned to wave goodbye,
your man speeding you away to death,
the lock tightly down?

In the glint of sharpened steel, seconds
before your last breath, did you see
hour after hour of Success I sessions,
the desperate pleading for help,
faces turned to you in hope,
believing violence could end?

Did you see me,
tightly clasping that other man’s hand,
the one who promised, “I will never, never…?”
Did you spy me later, driving away alone?

I was the one in your dreams, begging
you to leave, arguing, even then,
against the stupid heart
and its deadly second chances.

Marjorie Maddox, Sage Graduate Fellow of Cornell University (MFA) and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, has published eleven collections of poetry—including True, False, None of the Above (Poeima Poetry Series and Illumination Book Award Medalist); Local News from Someplace Else; Wives’ Tales; Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); and Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite Press); and over 550 stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. The recipient of numerous honors and co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (Penn State Press), she also is the author of four children’s books. For more information, please see

Author photo credit: Dawn Snyder

Marjorie Maddox’s Website

Marjorie Maddox’s Recent Books:

What She Was Saying (stories)

Wives’ Tales (poems) 

True, False, None of the Above

Local News from Someplace Else



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