Thursday, August 10, 2017

Marianne Szlyk - Five Poems

The Songwriter Sits in the Boston Public Library

In this room beneath the glassed-in courtyard
with its potted palms on a snowy day,
the heat wraps itself around me
with a hiss.  Harsh light scours
the chipped, greasy tile
that smells of sugary bubblegum.
There are no computers here.

This microfilm reader is older than I am.

I pretend it’s August 9, 1974.
I’m wearing shorts.  My dirty blond hair
is growing out.  Even my ears are unpierced.
My parents are still together.  I still chew gum.
We’ve moved into the avocado ranch house
near the end of Maple Street, the one
that I’m too young to remember.
I hold the afternoon paper in tiny hands. 
The headline is larger than anything
I’ve seen, even the title of a picture book.
I know V-E Day, V-J Day, Pearl Harbor
were just as big, if not bigger.
I know.  I’ve read the stories
here on this machine.
But for the sake of my song
I pretend.

Rainy Living

“You participate in the raining [;] your existence is a rainy living.”
-          Paul F. Schmidt, “Kyoto Temples”

On the other side of the window,
rain falls.  Cypress drips.
Glancing out, I sip ginger tea.

I’m not here.  I’m in the Northwest
of moss and fern, tree trunks
green not brown, houses

tucked in beneath spruce
and cedar, mountains today
hidden in fog, in trees.

I’m not here.  There’s no school.
Flakes fall from a deadpan sky
covering over grass,

forgotten coffee cups,
water bowls for long-dead cats.
I sit and read prose

about the rain in Kyoto.
It seems gentle, steady,
falling without wind pushing

through rice paper walls
or sweeping cold water inside.
Here the rain pours

onto the skylight above me,
slaps the sides of the yellow house,
blots out the sound of traffic.

I participate in the raining.


August 1996 -- Boston

You, my ex-husband, the man
I was leaving that evening,
stood in the back of the picture.

You were the thirteenth guest,
the skeleton
wearing a cowboy hat,
your teeth glittering, your hair
too long and stringy.
At the table, you talked rapidly
to everyone but me.

You talked to my father
while he yawned.
You talked to my mother
while she glared at
glazed chicken wings and potato skins,
food she could not eat.

I should have known
I couldn’t have left our city
that easily.

After Mark Rothko, Seagram Mural

“Abstract art never interested me; I always painted realistically. My present paintings are realistic.” – Mark Rothko  (quoted in

It, too, was a window,
the black square framed by
fiery red painted over black,
the edges feathering, even fraying.
It looked out to night
with no buildings, no trees,
no stars, putting the lie to
ceilings of nightclubs that twinkled.
As lights dimmed, the band in
matching jackets played.  Couples danced
together, singles smoked alone, and
silverware clashed over bone china.
Through this painted window was

Earliest Spring After Grading Papers

Blinking, she emerges to old age.
Harsh, cold sunlight does not warm.
Or she cannot feel it beneath
layers of ten-year-old sweaters.
Spring hasn’t yet brought forth flowers,
even Lent’s crocuses or plastic forsythia.
Lichen and grass remain, wintering here. 
Unlike the birds, they can’t escape.
Like her, they remain. 

Marianne Szlyk is the editor of The Song Is... Her chapbook, I Dream of Empathy, was published by Flutter Press. Her poems have appeared at Cacti Fur, bird's thumb, of/with, Solidago, and Red Bir Chapbook's Weekly Read. She encourages you to submit to her magazine. For more info, see


  1. Marianne Szlyk, This is Krishna Prasad of The Wagon Magazine. I could not share to my WordPress blogspot . I loved the poems, Marianne

  2. Thank you, Michael and Krishna. I'm sorry that I missed your comments on these poems!