Marielle Prince


“My mama’s troubles” sprung up out of the haunting memory of a rhyme I learned when I was very young. While the prose poem is generally a “less restricting” form, here it seemed appropriately like a restraint for a story that was otherwise so fully rhythmic.

“Sirop de poteau” is from a series of poems about an ill-fated (fictional) religious pilgrimage. The title is a Quebecois phrase I ran across – referring to fake maple syrup, implying that it’s made by tapping telephone poles.





My mama’s troubles


My mama’s troubles she borrowed back in the seventies for a Juba dance, tied them jangling to her ankle and stomped all night in a restaurant basement, room so full of troubles that my mama forgot the ones she was wearing come end of the night.

A week later mama was still wearing somebody else’s troubles, nobody in their right mind gonna ask for them back once they got that chain off, and mama too shy to go back uninvited round where she got them from.

It was alright, mama said, troubles ain’t so bad to carry ‘cause of the music, and everybody hear you coming with the troubles and they put down the broom or the paper, get their troubles out and y’all do heavy foot dances just anywhere.

But mama didn’t say about walking when there’s nobody to hear or about walking when there’s nobody with troubles, and then it’s just step-trouble step-trouble and if you try to sing along it’s just the same Juba this and Juba that.

Mama’s ankles are swollen, troubles so tight on her now she thinks they keep her foot on, it’s troubles that keep her walking she says, trouble’s always one step ahead she says as she teaches me to pat in time to trouble, dancing while I slap Juba on my knees.


Previously published in Cellar Door, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill



Sirop de poteau



The day her husband joined the other men who’d gone crazy, Vera stitched the kitchen curtains closed. She was glad to see that her hems had held up so well after the thousands of mornings she clutched her coffee cup to her chest and whisked them open, motioning go forth into the world with her right hand. Her husband always said it was a shame the window faced the street, but Vera liked watching her neighbors bowing in bathrobes over mailboxes. The last morning he was at home, Vera’s husband startled her into sloshing some of her coffee onto the window by coming to stand on a chair behind her. She didn’t know he was there until he put his foot on her shoulder, and as she watched her coffee drip down a telephone pole he said, “How can you still be happy with the view from down there?”

The men started going crazy after coming down from their pilgrimage to the mountain. It was her next-door neighbor Cecil who first took his tools down to the sidewalk, and Vera was so curious in the beginning that she kept getting too close to the window and losing him in the fog her coffee made; she cleared a space across him again and again until she realized she was blessing him with her fist. Cecil was pounding the telephone pole with a screwdriver. Vera was waiting for someone to go out and stop him, but when another man did finally appear, he was only bringing Cecil a drill. After that, the group of men around the telephone pole grew daily, as did the pile of spiles and buckets, until the morning Vera saw her husband lugging her kettle across the lawn and she put down the coffee and went to get the needle.



Marielle_PrinceMarielle Prince is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in English and minored in Creative Writing, receiving Highest Honors for her thesis of original poetry. She is the managing editor of Bull City Press.