Four from If We Could Know Our Bones

by Mary Carroll-Hackett


In the Book of Beginnings

my belly stretched brown and round, taut and humming beneath your warrior hands, the squared ends of your fingers naming, claiming a thousand children’s tiny bones, feet like wings, fluttering beneath my ribs, swimming toward the sacrum. I slept fitfully between your knees. Beyond us, above the mountains, the drumming grew louder. There in the fields, three lions, blue-gray and gentle—for now—waited in the soft grass, murmuring take the children to the trees. In the flicker of your lamps, I lifted the robes, so I could show you what we’d made together, the gates and spirals tattooed there, loops burned into the skin above my left hip, guarding against loss of what grew within, schemata for that future we were seeding. Don’t cry for me, Magdalena. You spun me into beginning again, a voice in the wind, in my hair, leading me to that day when the hawks would cross into view, serpentine clawing open the stark sky, for that day when the leonine eyes would widen to orbs, allowing all that is light in.



Remembering the Body as Grace

(for DE)

We all live in a house on fire –Tennessee Williams

I dream back the hot slow sky your body was above me, goldleafed and dappled in early sun, in those running heated days of baggy shorts, thin shoulder straps, loosed barefoot in the woods, where the world wore the soft warm pelts we tumbled in, skins multicolored scarfs we slid out of, slid into, each other. We were hungering home.

I wore some long breezy skirt, thinking Stevie Nicks would approve; in those days music made our maps. At a party to honor the March stars, I sat in your lap on Alan’s floor, after too much tequila, naming fish, aquarium after aquarium lining old apartment walls. Outside, a vernal moon split the day in two perfect halves, calling the first point of my Aries into startling alignment with your laugh.

Thirty-one suns have crossed the celestial equator since then, science and memory rearranging, the Earth’s elliptical orbit, bending, changing, precession, axis tugged in another direction. Spring even now is being reduced by one minute per year, singing as it goes. Naked to the native acre, bone-clear, the body knows what it knows.

Age has freed us from any need to hide, that sweet surrender of knowing celestial objects near the celestial equator are visible worldwide.

Assuming the body as love, my body remembers—you sleepy-eyed and unshaven, hair long, lit by light breaking into that space, where we tangled like sweet-sweating animals. What we didn’t know then, spring sliding home into summer, we do now, having worn these faces, lived in these skins, long enough to comprehend gravity as grace.



We Stood With You

Proselyte: Origin: Middle English proselite, from Greek prosēlutos, stranger, proselyte: pros-, pros-+, ēluth-aorist tense stem of erkhesthai,to go, soujourner in a strange land

We stood with you, in that valley of dry bones, placing damp stones between your skeletal teeth, that you might breathe again, skin shimmering back into place like growing new limbs, nightsky cry of dust to rattle and quake, awaken to the truth that we all must: we are all proselytes. Let Gog and Magog battle among themselves, gnaw their own throats, eat their own rancid fruit. Let them burn, as they will. The heavens churn, wheel into wheel, bone to muscle, muscle to flesh, as you feel the call of fresh blood, iron thickening in your mouth, loins quickening for this new birth. You swallow the pebble we placed on your tongue and it cleaves like a star in your chest. You know—it is yours to clean up the mess they leave.



The Dove That Calls

there into the dew, in the air folding into morning, knew the secrets of light would not come without warning. She has held time beneath her wings, and those years resonate with the sounds of caves singing, of first feet on a beach, of gods who fluttered just within our reach, if only we’d lifted our eyes. The sound of soil seduces, the sift and silt of sand, ribs of undertow reducing the space we know, and the dove from deep in the stand of pines and cypress, calls to the bones of our memory, listen, listen, don’t go.



If We Could Know Our Bones will be published by A-Minor Press in Spring 2014.


The Dove That Calls was first published in The Prose Poem Project, August 2010
Remembering the Body as Grace was first published in Slipstream, Summer 2013







Mary Carroll-Hackett earned an MFA from Bennington College. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Carolina Quarterly, Clackamas Literary Review, Pedestal Magazine, Superstition Review, Drunken Boat and The Prose-Poem Project, among others. She was a North Carolina Blumenthal Writer and winner of the Willamette Award for Fiction. Her chapbook, The Real Politics of Lipstick, won Slipstream’s 2010 poetry competition. Another, Animal Soul, was released in 2013 from Kattywompus Press. She founded and teaches in the Creative Writing programs at Longwood University. She also teaches workshops on Writing Grief and Loss, Writing the Body, and Writing the Earth at The Porches Writers Retreat in Virginia. Mary founded and edits The Dos Passos Review, Briery Creek Press, and The Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry. Most recently, she co-founded SPACES, an online magazine of art and literature. Mary is currently at work on a collection of personal essays.


One thought on “Four from If We Could Know Our Bones

  1. Ted Jean says:

    Mary, sorry, I couldn’t rip my eyes off your loping prose. Word music, imploring recital, wrapped around images of sexually sensitive adults … one of the Four Subjects! Bravo.

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