The following introduction was provided by T. Merrill, a THT Featured Poet, and a good friend of Mary Malone.
Leslie Mellichamp, when he was still at the helm of The Lyric, seemed delighted when I introduced him to Mary’s poetry, and was
quick in accepting for publication three of the five poems I submitted on her behalf, and regretful that he couldn’t take the other two,
due, as I recall his hinting, to language considerations, and worries about offending readers. Mary could use a word or two in a poem
that strict propriety might not entirely endorse. By way of example, in one of her humorous poems--all of which, probably after some
coaxing on my part, she transferred into my possession--she seems to have come up with an amusing answer to the modern literary
sectarian's strict prohibition against archaism in poetry:
Alack, the John
Alack, the john is backing up!
Eftsoons will shit befoul the floor!
Rush, love, to seal the water off
Ere wretched fate should grieve us more!
Haste, plumber, on yon wings of light!
Express with joy thy skill, thine art!
Alas, the air no sweetness bears
But seemeth one gigantic fart!
Ah, God! To be thus roused from bed!
One would not read, one could not sup!
And who would care to screw (would you?)
With such a turmoil boiling up!
Yet plumbers come, disaster fades,
And Lestoil aideth in its way,
And morning, eke with birds in song,
Will bring us joy this fair new day!
When I knew her she was in her nineties, and in a wheelchair, but clearly no prig or prude. In fact she was rather witty. I remember, when she
was over visiting one day, and we were listening to a tape another poet-friend had sent me--of Vachel Lindsay reciting his famous
poem “The Congo”--her exclaiming: “No wonder Teasdale turned him down!” He really did sound awful, this poet
whose entreaties Sara Teasdale seems to have remained unmoved by. Mary had known or at least met Teasdale, I seem to recall her telling me,
and in her front closet she kept a robe that had belonged to the famous poet.
Mary was quite attached to her pets, only one of which was alive when I knew her. My
first time visiting her house, I was rather startled when a large colorful
creature came swooping into the living room on full wing, to land abruptly
on the shoulder of my chair. It was a cockatiel, and his only cage--at
least during my visit--was the house!
Mary belonged to the NH Poetry Society, and, as I recall, was once or maybe twice
voted by its members as their Poet of The Year. This distinction was
accorded not on the basis of her humorous work, which to my knowledge she
had shared with virtually no one besides me, but in acknowledgment of the
high quality of her lyric poetry and of her sonnets, most of which are
recorded in the only book she published, in 1990, A Shifting of The Light.
Mary’s serious poetry is noteworthy for its naturalness of style, as well as for a
distinctly wistful quality about it. She was not much impressed with current
poetry trends, and indeed probably felt somewhat disinherited, as is natural
enough for any poet with a genuinely lyric bent today. She died in the 1990s, and I
am glad to be able to assist in making her voice heard once again. It was a lovely one.
Beautiful ones I knew
Have withered away, have gone,
And over a flowering path
The night comes on.
Here in the folding dark
Old fragrance fills the air.
Through a rift in time I cherish
Flower and tendril there.
Do not reach out to me from where you are,
So young in form, so living, free of time.
For me the winter seas ride bleak and far
Nor may I turn again to summer's prime.
I lean across the wall, aware of you.
In sleep I wander in your world awhile,
And I remember well the hours we knew,
Brief flowers blowing by a pasture stile.
They are no more. They cannot scent the air
For you, for me, nor will they bloom again.
If I could pass the barrier and be there
We should be meeting without love or pain.
Now, locked in time and weary to the bone
I hold the shadow, with the substance flown.
Often in Quiet Woodlands I Have Met
Often in quiet woodlands I have met
The fragile trillium or an emerald moss,
Unique and perfect, with the pattern set
Beyond rude time, to grow nor suffer loss.
So blessed within this tranquil place was I
To touch the dew upon an opening fern
Or watch a stream in shadow slipping by,
To feel the soft wind where the low leaves turn.
Whose world was this within a timeless green?
How might I know? Could it as well be mine?
Where might I go, and where might I have been?
There was no one to speak. There was no sign --
Only the flow of leaves beyond my sight
Where death was but a shifting of the light.
Night of Pear Bloom
Lie weightless with me in the lucent air
And listen to the rain fall, hour by hour,
Upon the leaves, upon the blooming pear
That lifts a perfume, scented flower on flower.
Beyond the farthest range of time I sense
The warm and steady beating of your heart
In that astonishing, in that immense
And glowing world in which I have no part.
If I could hold you--rapt away from me--
And sleep within your arms, and sleeping go
Beside you, and be with you young and free
If only for an hour, let it be so.
I am alone. I listen to the rain
And hear the pear bloom brushing on the pane.
Tell me, what do you hear
In the hollowed air?
Winter is there...
White is the meadow-sea
And white the glistening tree
And the mute stream sealed.
Yet twigs tremble and sing
In a wind that strays,
And the tree's clear glaze
Breaks with a chiming sound
On the jeweled ground.
What can I give you now the leaves are gone,
When grass blades pierce the snow along the stream;
When milkweed, split and frozen, stands alone
Above the quiet water's muted gleam?
Could I have held things in their fleeting prime
For you, I would -- the pear in fragrant bloom,
The willow blowing -- They are gone with time,
Viewed only from the heart's enchanted room.
Yet there's a still completion in this day
For me, beyond the blossom and the seed.
No flower, no face, no special thing can stay
Past its own season and the moment's need.
Take, with my love, what I have grown to be
In this long cycle, soon to close for me.
The milkweed, infinitely old,
Has grown through summer in her green,
And autumn, with a rising mist,
A seeking wind, has blown between
The living pattern and the seed.
Frost, in its time, flings wide the door.
Ethereal, a treasure drifts
Above the russet and the gold,
And so an ancient wonder lifts
The spirit in the spirit's need.
Then Let a Poem Be
Then let a poem be
a momentary thing,
a bird's bright wing,
two notes within a tree --
a cry of love, of need,
a letting sorrow flow
that grief may go --
the bloom beyond the seed.
Then let a poem sing
and let it reach to find
a meeting mind,
and in this flowering
beauty and love are found
through heart, through sound.
The Haunted Castle
The castle crumbles on the hill.
Below, the quiet river bends.
The gentle sound of water blends
With the soft wind, and still, so still,
Repeats the tale it knows so well
Of Ysobel, young Ysobel.
But no one hears. Beyond the wall
The shepherd and the sheep are gone;
Yet candles, gleaming one by one,
Shine from the casement and the hall,
And harps more sweet than philomel
Shake from the tower of Ysobel.
For long crusades that never end
She could not wait. One summer day,
Turning her face, she rode away
Beyond the silver river's bend,
And broke the longing, waiting spell,
And loved again, fair Ysobel.
The feather-moonlight seeks no more
The pearl and shadow of her night,
Nor silently with frosty light
Glimmers along the corridor,
More exquisite than song can tell,
For strange and lovely Ysobel.
The arras whispers on the stone.
The dust lies heavy on the floor.
Where is she now who nevermore
May waken to the owlet's moan,
Eerie across the lonely fell
For haunting, perilous Ysobel.
The slow rust of a thousand years
Lays quiet fingers on her mouth
In some wild country to the south.
Vanished her passion and her tears,
All unremembered that befell
The lone, enchanting Ysobel.