Posted by: Rachel Mallino | February 28, 2009

Dysfunctional Batch #1 – Mary Biddinger

About the (dys)functional poet:
Mary Biddinger is the author of Prairie Fever (Steel Toe Books, 2007). Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in 32 Poems, Gulf Coast, The Laurel Review, Memorious, Ninth Letter, North American Review, /nor, Third Coast, and many other journals. She is the editor of the Akron Series in Poetry, and Co-Editor-in-Chief of Barn Owl Review. She teaches at the University of Akron, and is the incoming director of the NEOMFA: Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program.



They said it was a record
year for being small. Tiny
was the new gray, the new

nudity, only without all that
airbrushing. My man thought
there should be a Y in August.

My man told me don’t ever,
but I always did. Who was he
to predict what rained, or how?

My mother called me a complete
disappointment, as if it could be
partial, some kind of equation.

But I could paint the millimeter
stretch of bisque inside the fawn’s
ceramic ear. Write my name in

cursive with two eyelashes, still
attached. It was a record year
for bone-crushing. People drank

from teacups smaller than tears
and wrestled on linen napkins
spread out on threadbare lawns.

The new competition of who
could defoliate the fastest, elms
and birches slapping down all

day long. After a while nobody
even cared to fetch the chainsaw.
My mother told me to diminish

myself using any available means.
I told her to cast herself in clay.
The kind you crush in your hand.



She always preferred the company of objects,
dreamt of the day they’d make one adapter
that plugged into everything, herself included.

Her father wore denim overalls to church
and held a hat over his heart. Nothing was more
humiliating. They lived in a house with a door

but no front steps. Her mother always purchased
five-ounce paper cups instead of three, jammed
them into the pink Dixie holder. Everyone knew

that chicken belonged on the bottom, beef on top,
except for her. One day, instead of sex, she ate
an entire bag of chocolate chips. In biology class

her favorite lesson was when they ripped
a grasshopper apart with tweezers, then glued it
back together again. She listened to headphones

that interfered with equipment in nearby rooms.
Performed a lobotomy on an old toaster. Straddled
the washing machine and its penumbra of holes.



She would burn down any tree
that blocked her view. And they
worshipped her like the aurora
borealis tattooed across their backs.
I wondered if her bug zapper was really
meant for me, and not the congregation
of sizzled moths. We all wanted her
to turn palms up to the sky. I hid
beneath a shaggy juniper until the rain
made its way between needles,
and nobody bothered to call my name.
There was a ring of burned grass
in her yard where an inflatable pool
once stood. Rumor said she’d baptize
the miniature toads that leapt in front
of her lawn mower blade. When I
snuck into her house, it did not smell
like sandalwood or chives. She didn’t
keep cats, or salamanders with their
slime hollows removed. I never found
where all her scarves billowed at night.



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