Saundra Rose Maley



it was wartime
daisies and maisies in overalls
worked in factories
snapping gum in their teeth
ration spunk
to keep them going

through weekend tours
at the local USO
or late nights
checking hats
for the Willard rooftop garden
it was rough

making ends meet
while their men were at war
in radio worlds
and newspaper print
nights at home were spent reading

letters over and over
like prayers
mouths shaped to the words
and Hershey bars
melted on radiators


she worked nights
at the Peacock Alley
days she pushed
hands through hair
in a beauty shop
a good operator

professional ways
customers liked
tipped well
as they left
the last head done
shampoo and set

a quick bite
at Murphy's counter
on the way
to her night job
in the taxi mirror
she became glamorous

a mae west mama
making the rounds
with her tray
cigars cigarettes
a gardenia for the lady
mister won't you


for James Wright


The house on Union Street
where you were born
no longer stands,
disappeared between Pearl
and Zane Highways,
so I pay my respects
to an abandoned house nearby
before leaving town.

Old curtains pant
from its broken windows
and a white dog barks at me —

I back into my car
and roll down Seabrights Lane
toward Hanover Street
in the silent blue music
of the lives you saved

Three women sit
at a bus stop
like shopping bags—
an old man some factory
belched up to the sun
after thirty years in hellfire
spits back through a gap in his teeth.

Down Short Street
a fan of spray lifts off
the hood of a souped-up Chevy—

Ah, Martin's Ferry,
I don't belong here.


On the way home
back through Lover, PA
and the open throat of Allegheny Mountain
the turnpike unwinds before me
like a fraying ribbon

The spring hills hold
a hundred shades of green
and when I round a curve
six white horses bloom
on a hillside
still as marble markers.

I think of you.

For some reason I look back
and Martins Ferry disappears with the sun,
a small halo mourns
over Sideling Hill and you are gone —
gone over my shoulder forever
down into a suck-hole
like your strange Jenny,
and John Shunk the diver
can't bring you back
and neither can I.


And at my back
in the rear view mirror
a monstrous truck barrels down on me
its fierce face glaring—
someone sprayed on the bridge
in the blood of a broken deer.

You were right
we can all go straight to hell
in Ohio or wherever we are
and only a good man's prayers
can save us.


The journey back is long.
I lull into the incandescent blue
of early sleep

Sudden beads of light
slip past me like the first flashes
of a dream.

The deep black bowl
of the valley fills with small gems
one by one

And two glowing coals burn
like sanctuary lamps
on the back of a Buick up ahead —

I am not alone
sweet Jesus of graffiti
I fall into your fluorescent arms


Saundra Rose Maley is an adjunct assistant professor in the English Department, George Washington University and also teaches at the Catholic University. She's had poems in Dryad, Calvert Review, Ethos, Sybil-Child, The Mill and D.C. Perspectives. She is the author of Solitary Apprenticeship: James Wright and German Poetry (Mellen Press) and with Francis A. Burkle-Young, The Art of the Footnote and The Research Guide for the Digital Age (both published by the University Press of America).

Published in Volume 1, Number 4, Fall 2000.


Read more by this author:
Saundra Rose Maley's Introduction to Vol. 6, No. 1, The Whitman Issue (Winter 2004)
The Museum Issue (Winter 2009)
Saundra Rose Maley: Tenth Anniversary Issue