From The Mind
by Mary Meriam
It will take a bell-ringing god tremendous imagined descending for the healing of hell. — Muriel Rukeyser
It was important to have a bird sanctuary, and a little park with a gazebo, and to capture the rain so it wouldn’t flood the town below. Every tree they removed from the forest was used in building the houses. They selected special rocks for the road, the Loop, to slow the rainfall. This mountaintop has fresh winds through the forest of tall pines and old oaks. Venus told me about their new neighborhood, so I went to visit and talked for a long time to Orion, who gave me a thorough tour of their newest house, the second house they built on the Loop. I came back often, to walk the Loop, talk to Orion, and watch the next houses being built.
Sappho invited me to write poems on demand at the street art festival, and Venus ran over and asked me to write one. I wrote this:
I built a house of driftwood.
I built a house of stone.
I built a house to be alone.
I built a house that stood.
Who called the owl to visit me?
Who whistled for the crow?
Who grew my lovely pecan tree?
What does the robin know?
I told the world the story of
My complicated love.
I don’t know how Sappho found me — maybe Aphrodite? I lived outside of town, too far in so many ways, too deep in the Deep South, too far from a single goddess. But for many reasons, I was trapped there with Ajax for many years. More and more, I wanted to move to the Loop in town, but it was only a dream. Then Ajax died.
At the farmer’s market, Athena told me to sell my house and move to town. Athena is a farmer who feeds my poems with her sweet potatoes, green beans, cabbage, turnips, radishes, broccoli, and cauliflower. I was lost and sinking that spring and summer, alone and scared, and spent some hours each Thursday morning at the farmer’s market, helping her sell produce. She was one of four goddesses who drove over the mountains to visit me by the lake. After that visit, she began to give me a hug every time I visited her table at the farmer’s market. That auspicious July day, she called a woman who was selling her house and put me on the phone with her. Houses were selling so fast, hers was sold before I could buy it. But now I was inspired to sell my house (even though Zeus told us it couldn’t be sold), and I decided to build a house on the Loop.
Venus asked me if Orion could attend my meeting with a builder and a real estate agent. So we four stood on the Loop, talking about the empty lot, when suddenly Orion said, about the house next to the empty lot, “This house might be for sale.”
“This house” was a small house I’d watched being built, on a lot I’d dreamed of building on, drooling over it as I drove by, dreaming about it, picturing myself there. Venus had mentioned it was being built for a poet. But that poet wasn’t me. I was only the dreamer. That is, I was only the dreamer until the day, through a series of miracles, I walked into my new house on the Loop.
Venus is someone I barely know. But I do know that she loved the poem I wrote for her, out of love for the neighborhood she was building in a tiny town in the mountains, where no one can find a new house to buy. Poetry did make something happen for once, albeit in a small, personal way, but for me, the difference between death and life.
Mary Meriam co-founded Headmistress Press and edits the Lavender Review: Lesbian Poetry and Art. She is the author of My Girl’s Green Jacket (2018) and The Lillian Trilogy (2015), both from Headmistress Press. Her poems appeared recently in Poetry, Prelude, Subtropics, and The Poetry Review. Quoted here is the first poem in her new collection, Pools of June, to be published by Exot Books on February 2, 2022. Visit her website at https://marymeriam.blogspot.com.
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