Merry Speece


I don't distinguish much between poetry and prose. What I care about is how words sound together. I don't set out to write a prose poem. I just sit down to write, and if what comes out especially interests me, I might eventually send the piece off to a magazine, and if an editor decides it's a prose poem, good.





          He comes to me before bed or after a quarrel perhaps and rests his head for me to caress.
          Today the cardinals flit through the late summer sun not without some pain, a melancholy. The breeze stirs the leaves. I was a little girl once standing at a fence, resting against it, leaning toward an orchard the apples were falling it was afternoon and the cicadas unwound their song
          it was as if I'd been struck on the breastbone from inside with a tuning fork and that hum 
          it was as if suddenly a young man appeared from behind a tree lost in thought, and my heart leapt with a start and with pleasure, and either he looked up and walked to me or walked the other way it was the same pain
          exquisite as cutting oneself on a glass rose not even noticing and then the red blood trickling realizing
          I love him and he will die
          the cicada the everlasting hum the struck fork



To Will: Winesburg


To: William_Batstone@______
Subject: Winesburg


Thank you for the call last evening.

N. has my copy of Winesburg, Ohio, but when I had the book out of the public library recently, I wrote out a passage from the story "Adventure" in my journal. The woman in the story, in despair over her loneliness in Winesburg, has run out from her house into the night naked. A man almost sees her. Or maybe he does see her, but he's very drunk. I can't remember. She returns to the house shaken at the mad thing she's just done:

" 'What is the matter with me? I will do something dreadful if I am not careful,' she thought, and turning her face to the wall, began trying to face bravely the fact that many people must live and die alone, even in Winesburg.' "

After nine last night handyman Gary Sawmiller called to ask if the dishwasher works.

He's going to be away for a couple of days and was concerned I might try to reach him about a problem with it. His doctor had called to tell him to come to the hospital for two days of tests. The doctor wonders why Gary's bone marrow is disappearing.

Although Gary said he isn't worried, he must be. I wondered if he’d been drinking. Although I'm sorry for his troubles, I don't like talking to the guy (a lady’s man!), and the conversation went on considerably longer than I thought necessary. I was uncomfortable the whole time.

Toward the end he began to try to sell me on the idea of trying goji (sp?), a miracle juice. The Himalayans, he said, have been using it for centuries to give them energy. Have I ever seen a sick Himalayan he wanted to know. "I've never seen a Himalayan," I confessed. Oh yes I have, he told me: "You know, those dark people with the coconuts." I suggested, timidly, that the Himalayas are mountains. "No, not the ones in the mountains! The ones along the coast. You know, the ones with those big canoes that take people across the water."

M., having now escaped Winesburg, Ohio




Merry Speece has published two chapbooks of poetry and been a recipient of a state arts commission fellowship in prose. Her Sisters Grimke Book of Days, which one reviewer called a prose poem, was published in 2003 by Oasis Books (England).