Poetry Issue 15

   Issue #17 : July-December 2012

Mary Jo Bang

At the Moment of Beginning


      A cage can be a body: heart in the night
      quieted slightly; mind, a stopped top.
      Clock spring set. Hand in motion.
      The fact of the hollowed nothing head.

      How did we come to this? Inch by inch.
      I was born, borrowed from the beast;
      I was now property in a country
      where chain reigns—the empire city of I.


      So, the empire: the breath, the legend
      of the well-guarded hell.
      One comes to tell you
      what you should have done differently.

      I think, I say, and I am not you.
      In the margin of fear I heard a woman
      convincing me to listen.
      “Listen,” she said, “to the doctor.”


      The city before this was nothing,
      then dolls’ voices crying ma-ma, ma-ma,
      ma-ma. And swirled sand in a storm.
      Nothing turns back. I saw a fluttering

      I recognized in the distance.
      Out of nowhere, there was red: the
      furnace and the beating heart.
      All the while, camera flash lit the scene.

      (Originally appeared in Ploughshares and used by permission of the author.)