Odd Mysteries

by Mary Biddinger


The newspaper headlines were all about a miraculous rowboat.
Meanwhile I was teaching kids what to do in case of bullets.
Recalled learning about the best furniture to flatten myself under.
But that rowboat had either a mind of its own or some saint.
When we were a canal town bullets were rare, but not rowboats.
Imagine the size of the hats, the blistering spangles and flags.
A local historian bemoaned difficulty of so much entertainment.
I told the kids not to worry about looking stupid on the ground.
First time for me was a bank robbery and all remained so still.
Of course, I’m an import, a compact car with odd mysteries.
Maybe the miraculous rowboat was another flimsy metaphor.
I was surprised at how quietly the alarm rang: a singing bowl.
Then that time at Convenient Mart, or at Western Avenue Park.
My overalls fronted in dust, birds making more birds above.
They say that we all have our moment and should stay ready.
At college everyone was like, You don’t have to clutch your bag.
Was like, Take a nap in the grass, hang your coat in the library.
The miraculous rowboat just a pile of lumber back then, waiting.
But a girl was being shot that moment behind a corner grocery.
The rowboat was a cherry hoping to get pitted by lightning.
One night it would captain itself across a vast industrial lagoon.
A man on the bus flashed a piece in his sweatpants waistband.
The boat took on water overnight, rocked like no accident.
Ghosts of yesteryear’s revelers packed it with yellow lilacs.

MARY BIDDINGER is the author of six full-length poetry collections, including Small Enterprise and Partial Genius, both with Black Lawrence Press. She teaches literature and creative writing at The University of Akron, and edits the Akron Series in Poetry for The University of Akron Press. Poems have recently appeared in Court Green, Poetry, Tupelo Quarterly, and Waxwing, among others. Biddinger has been the recipient of three Individual Excellence Awards in poetry from the Ohio Arts Council, and received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 2015. She is currently at work on a new manuscript of small poems about ordinary things. Find her online at marybiddinger.com and @marybid on Twitter.

Photo: “Sunken” by Mark Faviell