voice of Penelope


All the young men came in 

But you were never there

Standing as likely under a rafter 


Visible enough


As a still small-footed 

Never old & wandering vine 

Your trunk the exact imperfect

Square pillar


Light red leaves 

On a low breeze lifted 



A silver-tongued solitary of the moon

& of the oxygen atom


So I felt the urge to run & listen for you

Here where the breeze compresses the blossom 

Raises the stems


I heard you 

Your instep

Swivel & lift


An open sky

Upon every tread as you turned  

So then I hesitated to listen

& the breezes stopped hiding you 

So busy 

Reflective of dark silence 

Alertness & execution 

So before I heard anything given or taken

I believed I knew your beastly mind


Bloodied all those young men

Felled in close quarters

Their alarms & piercing cries 

As they departed 

Who were they

The worthless


Even our frontiers were murmuring that moment 

Who were they


& I sat 

Answering myself 

Marrying the unseen with my own answer



How am I thus satiated 

When I have never since eaten

Nor opened my hand 

Nor opened my eye 

Nor opened my belly nor my heart 

Nor unstopped my ears

Nor disarranged myself

In the least


All this effort is useless

To break my coldness with blunt percussions

I no longer require axe heads 

But crave sweetness


Restrain myself as I must

Of necessity

My ear at my door

May I avoid drowning in these tears & gasping 

As the fresh salt breezes press in


Blood holds half the sky in its arc 

& from my rooms

I listen carelessly 

Since I am one with you

Who disregard mercy


Listen under your rafter 

As we close on cruelty

& I know how all will resume

With me after this 

Your familiar novelty  

Your low tone loosened


& it is out of my mind

I must listen for what is inhuman 

Out of my mind must hear

What the low tree-line against the horizon conceals


That sea that ever disturbs your busy heart 

Since I have already listened long

For you among younger men 

Even as the sinking fog departed with you


Not for the first time I laugh quietly to myself 

Dear man 

What are you doing 

Stacking coins or cards to pass time 

You with a pastime


Or am I never

To gauge

Your character

For all it is 

Or what passes

As we lie

Listless in winter 

My hands fallen

To my sides


To circumstance


I will not be visible but will make no retreat  

An amulet in your pocket


I will lie as I have lain

In our house

Waiting & tried


Again satiated 

May I drink deeply

Of pomegranate

Swallow the dregs of it 

May I wipe its stain

Scour granite


Stream running to the sea 

Sky in it below the tree-root

& sea breezes rising 

Then may I hardly be there

As the morning has gone & returned

 & is scattered widely

With half the house

& its furnishings


Then may I throw all our corpses out 

Walk in the salty air 

As you  my consort

Lead me for the moment through town

Secure in your honored anonymity

& feared in the streets their fathers also walk 

Where our new passion withers 

Withers while everybody watches

Sports   foot races   or martial contests 

Where I also come to lose myself

& can drop everything watching

Our open-hearted boy   my joy 

In his tamer pursuits


Where I can run in place

Or raise the alarm of the newest cacophony 

Even that fading away of all youth

That is this very instant screaming 

A shrill blare we may never know here 

Since no one in particular of any stature

Is sounding it


Since I can’t lose

My head now

Or in the sunlight

Lose you 

My nearest & ancient hope


voice of Mnemosyne


Like a young toddler

Trying to cruise

A moment my balance was easy

Was going well enough

As everything returned nearer than before 

Nearer to the short or messy word which is a fitting

Amen to us 

The wet stems in the vase

Off which the old blossoms are fading

Then fading again

As dry straight stems fallen

In every which away

Like things   like sticks 

A wonderful remembrance so many lose


Where childhood pulls itself up

& is coming forward

As one clings to a gutter


One looking ahead 

Yes   only forward 

With as many looking on

As it were upon the advance of life 

Why not run altogether

The grasses dimpling underfoot 


I don’t require

These legs   ears   or ideas lower than weeping willows

More stricture than love   revenge

Forgetting   memory   future 

Or more noise

Or more inexact science

Or more chairs in the lawn  

That I may cross some new direction

A narrow shadow running from me


Some rivulet slowing

A delicate odor at the beginning of summer


The sheer weightlessness of watered breath leaving a body


The window before me open 

The small rocks set there 

The dolls & the figures 

The few carelessly strewn & upended companions

The unceremonious laughter of them

None brought in


The celebrations

Dropped cracker

Sky empty of cloud


Not even one empty of praise

Or the sharp new takings-in


Or the falling & ordinary knee-scrapings


So you won’t leave any legacy to anything 

Or your little cars won’t go 

Before the single push


Just the birth of more silence 

Rusting into the rain


As I was removed from this house 

Remembering I cannot go there again & proud I have not

Gone there again 

That never do old wives return 

That never does a new face not rise up out of the earth 

With nothing under her

& her legs sinking to her ankles


voice of Tethys


A man calling grouse or doves


The enveloping chill of the stream in that smallest meadow 

Pools of shadow blurring its tree lines


Here is a hiding spot I might still wriggle into 

Always the trapped smell of sunlight

& the oiled axe to split the last of the kindling

& the bank’s rippled edge & the heavy suckerfish

Steady under the running water 

There it is a sunken leg 

Now there is a wrongful sight

Or even the leg floating free beyond a bend 

Slave to the running currents


The year’s hatchlings impossible to catch 

Anywhere the foot splashes  up  down


Bodies that are wearied in the end 


A white gate reflecting moonlight 

Erasing the lines of curtilage 

The slats as if drunken & wandering freely 

The hinge worked loose from the post

Itself falling


The slatternly rise over the next boundary

Linking mine to yours 

Mine to another’s 

Leading   leading  

Always to the verge


I believe I am fated   yes  

I have a mild dampened fact for a body


How did I walk

What did I run to see

Why set my foot prints where

The dust here is tracked over

At a black metal post 

With swirls   scuffs


This here was nothing

I believed I would have

Or have any need to relinquish


voice of Artemis


& the mind enfolds a wave into its tissues

You deceive me 

You deceive me with your very arrival


As a game bird listening in the rushes

You reap the wildness that everyone else


Look into the water

& no one sitting still in the blind      

The water rocking slowly

& as imagined enemies 

A night of last summer

My chest relieved of its burdens


& we sharpen our ears

Beginning the hunt

& we forget the missed shot

The first


Your people waiting an expected letter

About how you may be


& there is ready game & the sun is barely rising through mist


& I don’t credit the cacophony & the green of reeds

& if we do not save them


What loss

What more


& there is no disorder by which we might bring hunger to bear


The body is hidden here

& then let it fly

& I will forget the shot 

How I shot off one leg in the fog


But missed the fog

That was not my target

Then   O   my foreign target

& the willows stand & we listen a little while    


But for several mornings the year’s goslings hid themselves 

Huddled off the water

They were healthy & they were alert 

& I listened to the joyous rustling of escape

You deceived me

So whispered my new conviction  

You do not care

To finish even once

You will not finish what is yours

We are unmoving then  

You will finish your hunt

You think 

You frown   

Move your legs

For greater comfort


Slipping out of my fingers


You miss them once 

You stop finishing  

You whisper Zero to the goslings 

Zero & are angry

With yourself


Ah shit & you have finished an ugly

Failure for good


Off the watery surface

You have finished this off

You my huge target stand admiring failure  

Its wet vista  

Its bitter familiar odor 

It’s only a short while


The odor of it unlike

Any rose or bramble of the mountain


Once but a passing summer cloud

& why two would ever think to look up at it

From afar & think


voice of Rhiannon


By the body you mistook

The animal body

Closed & stolid

& outward 



Out of the mouth 


Out of the lines 

In or out

Of the many glosses


Out of that cranny 

Now out of this cranny

Of what was mistaken

As the forbearers’ cranny

Glossolalia lost


With sensibility namelessly past & passing 

We cocked an ear upwards at birds’ wings then


Never the present moment

It having slipped behind

As a low road caught behind a last curve

To fall beneath the wheel

Just look & there is another curve


The first mark you made after I fell silent

Was not the mark of your tongue

But a line

A narrow cold line drawn in the void

Of which you remain ignorant 

Or that you drew it


You don’t care to delight me

Breath on its high horse 

My blessing its saddle

Parting at a distance   


That’s that

No more stirring the pot

That was animal behavior


Never the body from which the no issues

Or which enters a body dully  

No emptied body into another 

From which the no issued unfeelingly


No more animal abandon with such delightful feet 

Then patting & padding one thing & another carelessly

So the fig is closing 

The small envelope   the ear   the day   the earth

So the garden 

The classical figure

Mary Jane White is a retired trial lawyer who also holds a MFA Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and has been awarded two NEA Fellowships, one in poetry and one in translation. Her Tsvetaeva translations appear along with early original poems in Starry Sky to Starry Sky (Holy Cow! Press 1988) New Year’s, an elegy for Rilke (Adastra Press 2007); Poets Translate Poets, (Syracuse 2013). After Russia: Poems of an Emigrant: After Russia, Poem of the Hill, Poem of the End and New Year’s (a bilingual text) is forthcoming in 2020 from Adelaide Books (NYC/Lisbon). Contact her at This is Chapter 4 of a memoir that won the Les Standiford Fellowship for the Writers in Paradise Conference, Eckerd College, Florida, for a workshop with Ann Hood.