“Patience” by Mary Elise Bailey
from “Songs for Spring”
I curl around the bulb
of a strange blue flower,
its nascent lines, in darker
blues, delphic and hidden,
like a cross between a wish
and a map no one can read.
I wait for the leftover snow
to melt, last year’s grass, still
tinted green. I wait for the lines
to reveal their intentions,
to thicken, to ripen,
as the ground slowly unfolds
its inventions: the dark-stricken
each one, a question.
I understand uncertainty
better than I used to—
the insides of branches,
of bud and tree bark, of colors ¬
unwilling to break open.
Mine is a steady and a lower
voice now, a series of notes
answering the pink of the wild
geranium, the frail, furtive edges
of its still-curled leaves.
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Mary Elise Bailey’s Artist Statement:
This poem is about the bittersweet silver-lining of memory loss, one’s release from the inward trappings of identity; it was inspired by a wonderful visit with my mother, who was suffering from severe dementia at the time.
A high school dropout who grew up in Maine and eventually earned a PhD from
Brandeis University, Mary Bailey started writing poems at about the age of ten. Over the
years, she’s held a variety of jobs, from dishwasher to silversmith, from bartender to
professor; she now works in California as a creative writing mentor for teenaged writers
and writers “at risk”—a position she loves, and which, given her own rebellious youth,
Much of Mary’s poetry and scholarly work has been inspired by her mother–a gifted,
single-parent poet who badly needed but never quite found “a room of [her] own.” Her
current projects include two books: The Deer Mother (poetry) and Toward a Theory of
Maternal Poetics (a study of H.D. and Elizabeth Bishop). Her poems have appeared in
journals such as Field, Poetry East, College English, and Southern Poetry Review.