Mary Jo Salter

Poems featured on The Gladdest Thing

Video Blues

My husband has a crush on Myrna Loy,
and likes to rent her movies, for a treat.
It makes some evenings harder to enjoy.

The list of actresses who might employ
him as their slave is too long to repeat.
(My husband has a crush on Myrna Loy,

Carole Lombard, Paulette Goddard, coy
Jean Arthur with that voice as dry as wheat . . .)
It makes some evenings harder to enjoy.

Does he confess all this just to annoy
a loyal spouse? I know I can’t compete.
My husband has a crush on Myrna Loy.

And can’t a woman have her dreamboats? Boy,
I wouldn’t say my life is incomplete,
but some evening I could certainly enjoy

two hours with Cary Grant as my own toy.
I guess, though, we were destined not to meet.
My husband has a crush on Myrna Loy,
which makes some evenings harder to enjoy.

— Mary Jo Salter

end

June: The Gianicolo

Driven to this, the pairs of lovers roll
into the parking lot like shaken dice,
and though they’ve come expressly for a vista
much grander than themselves, begin to fuse
into the other’s eyes. Oh, that fond conviction
of a match made in Heaven!
                                          Below them, at the base
of an ancient hill, the million lamps of Rome
light up in rosy approbation, each
signalling to one chose counterpart
among the stars the nightly freshened wish
to lie uniquely in its dazzled gaze.

— Mary Jo Salter

end

Summer 1983

None of us remembers these, the days
when passing strangers adored us at first sight,
just for living, or for strolling down the street;
praised all our given names; begged us to smile . . .
you, too, in a little while,
my darling, will have lost all this,
asked for a kiss will give one, and learn
how love dooms us to earn
love once we can speak of it.

— Mary Jo Salter

end

Lament

Waking in her crib, the boat
they pushed her off in long ago,
although she stood to shake the rail
and wail at them,
                             she’s all at sea.
Nothing familiar in the dark
until she rubs it from her eyes:
gray bear, gray ceiling where the moons
and stars turn, turn away.
                                          Why
wouldn’t she cry? For out there, perched
at table’s edge, unreachable,
white to the brim, supremely real,
the bottle with the golden nipple
glows like a lighthouse.

— Mary Jo Salter

end

Lullaby for a Daughter

Someday, when the sands of time
invert, may you find perfect rest
as a newborn nurses from
the hourglass of your breast.

— Mary Jo Salter

end

Boulevard du Montparnasse

Once, in a doorway in Paris, I saw
the most beautiful couple in the world.
They were each the single most beautiful thing in the world.
She would have been sixteen, perhaps; he twenty.
Their skin was the same shade of black: like a shiny Steinway.
And they stood there like the four-legged instrument
of a passion so grand one could barely imagine them
ever working, or eating, or reading a magazine.
Even they could hardly believe it.
Her hands gripped his belt loops, as they found each others’ eyes,
because beauty like this must be held onto,
could easily run away on the power
of his long, lean thighs; or the tiny feet of her laughter.
I thought: now I will write a poem,
set in the doorway on the Boulevard du Montparnasse,
in which the brutishness of time
rates only a mention; I will say simply
that if either one should ever love another,
a greater beauty shall not be the cause.

— Mary Jo Salter

end

Half a Double Sonnet

for Ben

Their ordeal over, now the only trouble
was conveying somehow to a boy of three
that for a week or two he’d be seeing double.
Surely he wouldn’t recall the surgery
years later, but what about the psychic scars?
And so, when the patch came off, they bought the toy
he’d wanted most. He held it high. “Two cars!”
he cried; and drove himself from joy to joy.
Two baby sisters … One was enough of Clare,
but who could complain? —considering that another
woman had stepped forward to take care
of the girls, which left him all alone with Mother.
Victory! Even when he went to pee,
he was seconded in his virility.

— Mary Jo Salter

end
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