poetry quarterly

10th anniversary


Mary-Sherman Willis


after Leo Friedlander's sculptures on Arlington Memorial Bridge,
"The Arts of War," "Sacrifice," and "Valor" (1951)

The breasts of a goddess are coned, capped, coppered,
her pects like fuselages, Vesuviuses stoppered—
or Grand Tetons, their river rocks washed
with a thousand babbles, a wash of tears.
There’s no mistaking her for a god.

And we’ve seen that goddess: her stony breasts flashed
to passing traffic, balance-scales or spears
in hand. We’ve stood before her, awed

and disconnected, or rather we’ve burned
to connect to what’s contained, cupped, bucketed:
the breasts a thousand mouths have suckled at

and sucked to stone. Milk … from a stone:
that is the miracle of a thousand loaves turned
into a goddess’s self, pervasive and alone.


Mary-Sheman Willis's poems and reviews have appeared in the New Republic, the Hudson Review, the Iowa Review, and Shenandoah; in Ted Kooser's column "American Life in Poetry"; and in several anthologies. She is a graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and teaches creative writing at George Washington University. She is a fourth-generation Washingtonian.


Published in Volume 11, Number 4, Fall 2010.