Mary Biddinger: A Hex Symbol and Bildungsroman

Mary Biddinger, straight from central casting

Mary Biddinger is THERMOS’s blog poet for mid-March. She’s the author of Prairie Fever (Steel Toe Books, 2007) and the chapbook Saint Monica (forthcoming with Black Lawrence Press).  Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in 32 Poems, Center: A Journal of the Literary Arts, The Collagist, Copper Nickel, diode, Gulf Coast, North American Review, Passages North, Third Coast, and many other journals.  She is the editor of the Akron Series in Poetry, and co-editor, with John Gallaher, of the new Akron Series in Contemporary Poetics. She also edits the independent literary annual Barn Owl Review, and directs the NEOMFA: Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Here are two poems!






Now that we no longer have to drive to Pennsylvania,
I prefer my stars not to be stylized, my rosettes uncomfortably
explicit. Nobody can stop staring at them. Everyone should
strive for parity of some sort, even if long skirts don’t flatter.
You always said I’d look hot in a bonnet. When I begged you
to hang the pineapple hex over our bed, you did not resist
at first. We had no barn door, aside from the metaphor, and no
horse would walk out of that one alone. Nights when we smoked
under a canopy of electrical wires and oak leaves, no talk
of moving to the country. Our neighbors burned their incense,
squeezed the rice from stuffed peppers. Our gray cat executed
her nightly rounds. There was no symbol for all of these things
transpiring in unison. I always sliced too close to the core
of the pineapple. We had to stay far away from the sun wheel
until later. My cape and apron only made me look gothic, not
married. After a while it started to drizzle. The cat intercepted
two distlefinks on their way to the thistle feeder. The feathers
made a bird of paradise on the sidewalk, a tiny sun in the gutter.







Begins with the two of us, like paperdolls
accidentally printed too close, and overlapping

in the most unseemly places. One coal-chute
black sweep for the hair. Hands missing

fingernails, but webbed together somehow,
albeit invisibly. Watch us lean in unison

over a thumbnail sketch of watermelon
loaded with fireworks. Certainly we could

outdo the catastrophe. There was a sandstorm.
We just stood there and laughed as people

ran for their cars. We only drove each other.
Never purchased clothing that would not

fit both of us if necessary. An unrelenting
sandstorm can tear pigtails off a copperhead,

the gunsmoke from a gunnysack. Ladyfingers
shimmied across the floor of the cafeteria

and all the women ripped their pantyhose
in anticipation. We commandeered both

microphones and I sang to you the ballad
of my haunted eyelid, the flowerpot that tried

to rival you in my affections, and how all
of this ended quite badly, except for us.


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