FALL 2011





Mike MacMahon

A Bakery in December
now the woman pink armed and wearing a white baker's cap as she kneads dough on the oak kitchen table in late slanting light lives inside the perfume of bread she loafed an hour ago baking in her black stove
a woman with bread in her oven and bread to be in her fingers in the steaming pane of my luck seeing this aroma of pale light come millions of miles to touch her my face
the birth of bread


The poem begins with
the word that means
the noun has left
the wet silence to meet us,

the flight delayed, perhaps,
the voyage slowed,
the traffic snarled, a wreck, but
the sweet guest is on
the way to our mouths.

The juice oozed from
the browning bite in
the pale Granny Smith apple on
the oak table in
the terminal coffee shop

The begins
the definite,
the ripe bride and world:
the promise of syntax,
the poem I long to live, and yet

the subtle word,
the extra letter and
the mutant ants savage us,
the e gone and
the speaker lisps.

The seed hit
the egg.
The egg grew.

The boy watched
the baby come out of
the girl.

The three of them live in
the happy white ever after on the hill.

The magic word:
the rhyme of
the first and
the third letter,
the stairway word.

The word without which I could not say
the girl I met last night has breasts as firm as
the Granny Smith apple
the man at
the next table is about to bite as I write,

(the worlds drawing closer, wed,
the big bellies of the words,
the rich pangs quicker,
the dark blood),
the poem delivered in

the word


Light wet on brown leaves,
4 fathoms below me
autumn dawns on the Puritan quad.

Here, journalism students
slump in industrial desk chairs,
waking into their names.

And I see the black eraser

on the work stand beside
the white plastic
flat screen computer monitor:

in our new smart classroom,

a black coffin of language.

I heft it:
sole of a Price Chopper shoe,
burned heel of Nazi boot.

All words ever on the blackboard
behind me
are in this eraser.

Decayed casket Ishmael rode.

And I think all of Bush's words
and stories of Iraq
are in this eraser.

Fossil tongue of mammoth dead
By fire.

One word in here means both
sand and death
but I cannot find it.

If we do not speak the old bodies….

I know another word in here
means flame and cash
but I do not know how to say it.

If we do not find the old names….

The students know, think it fair
their parents and I will lose
our lives and names in this.

I remember clapping erasers
cleaning them after school
as detention from a teacher,

puffs of white smoke
rising from the concrete steps
where I huddled from Russian.

We crashed, as stocks or towers,

maybe we were over Scotland,

maybe we were invading Carthage
or Georgia.

I know the black box with its names
for old pain and disaster eludes us.

I am holding a black eraser
as I start to explain
how we report hard news.


Shaving the Family Face
They agreed: I came with Grandma Laura's nose. Years cartooned my grandfather's jaw on me. I am my family's history in my face.

There's my brother in my right eye lid, John, in his home waiting for nurses to raise him from sleep to hobbled, overweight day.

Above the right ear lobe, bitter Uncle Bill, broken by the Pacific's World War Two, hears me say I am my family's history in my face.

My face has one bad eye, warts, and absences my children left, or took away, in faces full of their children's names.

In the shaving mirror, I've seen an ape, a girl starving in Ireland in 1848, and known I am my family's history in my face.

Mom and dad peek at me from puckered lips. Aunt Mattie and a starfish quit my cheek. How can I not love this ugly world each dawn? I am my family's history in my face.


Walking at Dusk in Early Winter
I have slept through the first snow, the grass and the dust gone. A day lost, an eon?
Tides of the old inland silence return, pines under sail,
messages blinking on the phone,
the black box of my name sinking beneath the floes.
I do not know my food.
My skin has become a beautiful ear watching
birches scrubbed by light whales loved.