you are in the diode archives winter 2011



A Coin-Operated Neighbor to the North

I am not such a good speaker. Nobody cares
about Canada, but I try not to believe it. Lightning,
and those cheap plastic boxes of rainbow sugar

that people try to win at roadside casinos.
A trip to Paris that ended up being the Paris
of the Midwest, only just a little higher on the map.

There may have been a bag over my head. I couldn’t
get the words quite right. You said something
about loosening your load, or that black and white

scarves were required to eat indoors. They’d stone
around the trees so the deer wouldn’t get too
forward. And then it was ninety-one pages, not one

spoon in sight. I carried my typewriter under my arm
and collection of handkerchiefs tucked in back.
It was a real fire alarm, even if the devil was fake.

Up there, a KitKat was like a mobile orgasm in red.
I found myself scrambling up a street in leather pants
that weren’t mine, or clutching some old woman

on the electric train, hoping to find the right kind
of bodega. Only it wasn’t a bodega there.
They called it a pitch-wallower. A mashhopper.

Told me to get my blind anklet out of their snare
before they had to call my widget. They could all go
to their walnut-crusted hell. Something was blowing

a classic freight train horn, but it was like a ghost
and not a bit more polite than the alternative.
Somebody was forcing me to eat my dinner

with a sore throat. I didn’t choose any of it.
My car was either in the impound lot, or stolen.
The hotel room rolled itself over all night long.


A Coin-Operated Gentrification Zone of the Heart

I could never find enough quarters. Even when I worked exclusively
for them, as a gypsy in a box. Even when they were the only thing
I could keep down. There was a violence in the heather. My city died
because we made it die, and then we loved it even more. Suddenly
we were authentic, and the stores started carrying our likenesses.
But nobody really liked us. They just wanted a piece, so to speak.
Once saw a man in a top hat and your old velour sweatshirt I burned
while you were drunk under the front porch. We were on a bus, so
the man just strolled on by with his pet hangover. It tugged him
by a chain. In the photography studio they made you hold me down
behind a curtain. You whispered catastrophe, catastrophe, like
that would somehow get me going. I promise that there was an old
neighborhood. It was real, and it was full of wives. They bought
that pink dish detergent because it was cheapest. Ironic how later
the alderman used it against them, like napalm. They didn’t
even try to hose me out. I was blocks away, watering some dead
begonias. Waiting on a bus for something called an oral history.
You told me I’d know it when I heard it. Our place too submissive
for a skyline. And all the time we should have been taking notes,
while a man and a woman on a bench took notes about us.
The police only wanted to know our favorite songs and haunts.


We Invent the Opposite of Vegas, Then Take it All Back

Nobody would sell us a map of Detroit. They gave me
loaves of bread, the signs off the walls, goats tied out back.

And so the blindfolds, the attempting. Knock me like a Pewabic
tile of the past century, so I’ll increase in value shortly

before leveling out to nothing. The way my mother and I
once devastated a coconut because we really wanted to get inside.

This town has none of the dazzle. Even the vacuums spill
just a little instead of really sucking. There’s no genuine mafia

on hand when I slide into the machine. Too many people trust
their underpinnings to a metal stranger full of holes.


A Coin-Operated Apple Pie

Because you hated everything. Even the homeless man
who held a sign that said PREMIUM. Even the rim of the sun.

The webs between my old dog’s toes, though she wasn’t
swimming anywhere, I will admit. The phantom lights I saw

every day on my dashboard, and said baby, this thing
won’t choke another mile. You hated both the Venus flytrap
and its intentions. They weren’t predatory enough, or set
a terrible example for everything else in the yard.

Next the stupid lawnmower would take pity on petunias,
or roll itself into the bed some night, like a scorpion.

You wanted everything to be authentically American,
even the suffering. We played a game where you create pies

on a screen. It was identical to the card catalogue, just
electronic. They made us bake it with the idea of warm hands.  


Mary Biddinger is the author of three collections of poetry: Prairie Fever (Steel Toe Books, 2007), the chapbook Saint Monica (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), and O Holy Insurgency (Black Lawrence Press, 2012), and co-editor of one volume of criticism: The Monkey and the Wrench: Essays into Contemporary Poetics (University of Akron Press, 2011). Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines, including Copper Nickel, Gulf Coast, The Iowa Review, and Ploughshares. She edits Barn Owl Review, the Akron Series in Poetry, and the Akron Series in Contemporary Poetics.