Consider This Corruption
Mary Jo Bang
In the film concerning the cult
Of the living, the woman was taken.
Some people looked at her and said nothing
And some said one interpretation is that all action is

In the mind, a cluster of notions in depravity’s head
Independent of the dreadful invention
Of the magnetic temporary where a partition is positioned
Between right and wrong.

On the back of the partition,
On the aspect from which she and we are reading,
It is written: Everyone is reckless some time.
What will come next? There is no worse punishment

Is there than this other empty body:
The eyes half-closed, the canvas in back
whitewashed into a steady gaze. We are appalled
apparently. We are held up by a rug-covered table.

The gift is the effortless image of bent rebar lengths
Encircling a neck. Thank you.
We are for all intents and purposes broken.

emptiness practice


Practice for Being Empty
Mary Jo Bang
I’m only a human. Always is only in me
as long as I last. What do I want? Don’t ask.

We forget who we are. Conformists all alone
looking for a fake mirror and finding it
in some poker-faced nobody

sitting across the aisle. To be like some other
and feel that while I am walking around
on the only surface that exists in here —

some stage set designed for collapsing.
While I don’t the world falls away.
This circus I’m part of was built just for this.

Photo by Alex Lopez on Unsplash



You Know
Mary Jo Bang
You know, don’t you, what we’re doing here?
The evening laid out like a beach ball gone airless.

We’re watching the spectators in the bleachers.
The one in the blue shirt says, “I knew,

even as a child, that my mind was adding color
to the moment.”

The one in red says, “In the dream, there was a child
batting a ball back and forth. He was chanting

that awful rhyme about time that eventually ends
with the body making a metronome motion.”

By way of demonstration, he moves mechanically
side to side while making a clicking noise.

His friends look away. They all know
how a metronome goes. You and I continue to watch

because we have nothing better to do.
We wait for the inevitable next: we know the crowd

will rise to its feet when prompted and count—
one-one-hundred, two-one-hundred,

three-one-hundred—as if history were a sound
that could pry apart an ever-widening abyss

with a sea on the bottom. And it will go on like this.
The crowd will quiet when the sea reaches us.

Photo by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash

cage as body


At the Moment of Beginning
Mary Jo Bang

A cage can be a body: heart in the night
quieted slightly; mind, a stopped top.
Clock spring set. Hand in motion.
The fact of the hollowed nothing head.

How did we come to this? Inch by inch.
I was born, borrowed from the beast;
I was now property in a country
where chain reigns—the empire city of I.


So, the empire: the breath, the legend
of the well-guarded hell.
One comes to tell you
what you should have done differently.

I think, I say, and I am not you.
In the margin of fear I heard a woman
convincing me to listen.
“Listen,” she said, “to the doctor.”


The city before this was nothing,
but swirled sand in a storm.
Nothing turns back. I saw a fluttering
I recognized in the distance.

Out of nowhere, there was red:
the furnace and the beating heart.
Every giddy excess behind the beginning
was also leading to the emphatic end.

Photo by Alex Holyoake on Unsplash