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Mary Cresswell

Mary Cresswell lives in New Zealand, where she is a self-employed technical writer and editor. She has been published in Light Quarterly, Tucumcari Literary Review, Landfall, Glottis, Tamba, and other journals in the US, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. She is co-author of Millionaire's Shortbread (University of Otago Press, 2003).

The Group Manager Addresses Her Mirror

Shall I wear the Gucci scarf today?
It’s far more lovely and more corporate
than what sleek young managers affect
in all the offices up and down the way.
It gives an air of strength, they always say,
classic looks for classic power dressed,
Look and feel and act as though you’re best
and the rest will follow, as the night the day.

No dangly earrings!  What women call
postmenopausal zest, in other places
gives a bad impression overall.
I will notice all their airs and graces,
a quiet woman, not looking to outwit them …

I shall run the show before they know what hit them.

First printed in Tamba 23:4 (Summer 1999/2000)

Courting Equilibrium

Blowing cold, blowing hot,
will it work or will it not?

Is this the romance time forgot?
Together we just fret and fuss.

You know zip. I know squat.
Will you give in? I will not.

The way of love was ever thus:
Furor vincit omnibus.

To any Romans who read this, forgive my bad Latin! I knew the saying Amor vincit omnia (“Love conquers everything”) but decided to change it to “Rage conquers everybody”—which is probably just as true. And it sounds wise, too.

First printed in Light Quarterly 46: 29 (Autumn, 2004)

Mrs. McGillicuddy as the Tragic Muse

Sing sorrow, sorrow: but good win out in the end
--Aeschylus, chorus in Agamemnon

I have suffered a lot. Sweet Jesus, such angst!
My life is a litany of loss.
But you never listen. Nobody cares
the wheres—the whys—or the hows.
            Sing sorrow, sing sorrow, sing sorrow
            I think I have lost the great toss.

At the drop of a pin, my inner child’s in
though I never recall what she said
My parents’ wild prances and satanic dances
have rendered me useless in bed
            Sing sorrow, sing sorrow, sing sorrow
            while the ravens collect on my head.

My life has shot through—my future’s gone, too
my yang forever sans yin—
and you? You should share the burden I bear
but you smirk, you ignore me, you grin—
            Sing sorrow! sing sorrow! damn right, you sing sorrow!
            and tomorrow you’ll sing it again!
Forthcoming in Glottis 11 (2006)

The Rake's Wife's Progress

I heard when I was at my women’s group,
that Miss Cottontail has really had enough
she’s found you and the going rough
so the two of you have finally broken up.

Not that I care (as once I used to care).
My friends agree you’d never had the prudence
to keep your hands off eager students,
that you’d fall hard—sometime, somewhere.

She’ll take you to the cleaners, that’s for sure,
she’ll hang you out to dry for all to see.
Ah, well—what you entrain you must endure.
This sort of thing no longer interests me.
Plus, my shrink thinks it best if I avoid a
latent tendency to schadenfreude.

: "malicious joy in other people's misfortunes"

Portrait of a Lady

Lime green are my pelmets
chartreuse are my drapes
all my little cushions
speak of raspberries and grapes
I’m queen of the western suburbs
I’ve got what it takes.

My kitchen walls are aubergine
my bathroom floor is slate
my husband keeps me well supplied
and regrets he’s working late
I’m queen of the western suburbs
working hard—up to date.

My daughter’s boffing surgeons
my son has disappeared
the quote for hand-wove curtains
is not as bad as I had feared
I’m queen of the western suburbs
—widely revered.

I cook with Tuscan olive oil
we dine off marquetry
I once spent two weeks finding
yak-milk farmhouse brie
but sometimes I think (in the suburbs)
what’s in this for me?

When migraine knocks me senseless
I pull the curtains tight—
I’ll try not to think how I feel today—
tomorrow I’ll be right
I’m queen of the western suburbs.
I have to come right.

The Pass at Grasmere

with thanks to Mr. William Wordsworth, late of Grasmere, for the first line

I wandered lonely as a cloud
No need, no wish for company
His greeting rang out, rough and loud
And smirking, he sloped up to me.

“I saw you standing all alone
Wandering lonely as a cloud
You dear sweet thing. Now come along
We’ll go and join the happy crowd.”

So there’s him, bloody, and me, unbowed—
I knew he thought he had a hope:
I tried to wander like a cloud,
He moved in closer for a grope.

I smacked his face and left the shite.
So what if I’m well-endowed?
—every girl has got the right
To wander lonely as a cloud!

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