Poetry 2011 / Volume 42

Mad Woman of Suburbia — John Grey

Cliffs in the garage, struggling to open an oil can.
I’m sweating over my homework.
Once more, Martha’s in her bedroom
being terrified by “The Book Of Revelations.”
Father is giving the grass
a good old fashioned butch-cut.
Scrub by scrub, ache by ache,
a rough wire brush, a linoleum floor,
are taking our mother away.

And down the street strides the mad woman
with the fuzzy hair and the nicotine teeth.
What’s she after this time.
Some talk. A drop of oil. A handful of grass.
Maybe the dirt that willing hands lift from the kitchen floor.
She sings, “We’re sinners, we’re lost,”
as she dances on the sidewalk.
Martha takes her as a sign.

The mailman’s less didactic.
In the box slips a letter that wants Cliff all to himself,
and a bill that doesn’t care who pays.
Cars are sparse, usually neighbors.
Though there in the sky, on top of its noise,
floats the traffic helicopter.
Perhaps this one gives the suburban variety of report.
“Lawns are being cut, books read, homework ignored,
housework done, and there’s a mad woman
doing a jig outside number 113.”

Maybe she had a life just like ours once,
a replay of everybody else’s.
And then it fell apart.
One son drank the oil.
The other set fire to the homework.
Her husband cut his toes.
She ruptured her knees, broke her back
with just one corner left to scrub.
And worst of all her daughter
scratched “666” on the front of her house.
And the mad woman before her danced a jig out in front of it.

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