From Mz N: the serial

Like all children Mz N lived
in archaic
mythic zones
and all the neighbors and kin played their parts to a T
although they never were able to tell her
the whole story.

The child Mz N sat on her bed
and wondered: that tree
outside her window
when her eye
shifted. What to make
of that?


Mz N and her siblings
had a dog for some time.
They went on vacation &
when they came back
no dog.
They asked the parents:
the dog?
who replied:
what dog?
And some people wonder
why others distrust the obvious.


One year Mz N began her great project
of investigative
touch. Like everything
it came about
through reading
and happenstance. Mz N had a friend
who said I do it and then
I worry
what if my roommate
What if?
Mz N wondered
went home
and discovered a new octave.


Mz N sometimes thinks
what N stands for: Nothing.
One day she said
in school & the teacher
paused, chalk between her fingers
like her longed-for cigarette.
What's nīhilism
another student said I thought
it was neehilism.
This was another example
of Mz N bringing up topics
that went Nowhere.


the blackest black
is not so black
it cannot take
a blacker black

so Mz N thinks
the void would speak
if void could speak
or of color think

Mz N is writing what she hopes will be
a masterpiece: Mispronunciation:
the definitive
autobiography. She only includes
the bloopers she remembers.
She is very strict like that.
What's vá-gi-na
—hard g
she called to her parents
age five
when they'd plopped her on the sofa
with a picture book
to help her learn
where babies. Some years later she told a story
at dinner
about being very angry
with a persecuting
teacher. I spoke
she sd
with great ve-hé-mence.
Her father laughed
a somewhat unkind laugh
and asked her to repeat it.
She did & once again
he laughed.
Mz N vehemently
objects to the making fun of children
who struggle every day
to get their words
and bodies aligned


one day after sex
in a century of bad sex
the other one asked Mz N
did I leave you
on the edge
never having had an orgasm
as far as she knew
she sd
quite definitively
how would she know
such an edge
are you sure
the other persisted
Mz N thought again
she could say
quite definitively
oh yes here I am on the edge
where you left me
the edge
of a certain
but this
she knew was the answer
to a question
no one was asking


Mz N embarks one day upon a sonnet
attracted by the knowledge that it's dead
extinct like dinosaur dodo or bonnet
long replaced by baseball caps on heads

that centuries ago were piled with curls
birds powder wires and such machinery
'twould blow the minds of tattooed boys and girls
who cruise the streets of this new century

Mz N concedes she's antiquarian
old hat old news—"hoarder of ancient dirt"
to quote the mouldy Scot John Pinkerton
but from her dead-end path she won't divert

the airplane made the train a living fossil
relict herself she listens for its whistle


Wordsworth never took a plane
but Mz N takes a plane with Wordsworth
on her mind
and other matters: love,
fear, a wish
to die.
Wordsworth had a very sturdy mind
and legs that took him far
into the mountains,
Scottish glens, German
towns and yes across
the Alps. Mz N has never seen
the Alps nor Snowdon
nor a mountain
anywhere beyond the ancient
Adirondacks Wordsworth too she thinks
would like their worndown humps
their pathless woods the rowboats by the shores
of placid lakes ready
for exploring. Young Wordsworth stole
a rowboat
rowed out on a lake one night and found himself
the mountain strode sublime
after him
and he trembled and his mind
as Burke had said it would
before sublimity
near failed. There are passages
in life
in Wordsworth
he called spots
of time and Mz N has some spots
she sometimes
recollects. But now
she's happy incredulous
in love
and in strange anguish
wants to recollect
nothing. If it were now
to die
'twere now to be most happy
she murmurs
with the engine
nearly exploding
with the fragility
and perverse strength of all that lives
and moves and has its being
in the air on the ground in the sea.
Having reached a floating state
of grace, surprised
by joy
she wants to die
can only get worse
the mountain
receding below them as they climb


"From Mz N: the serial": John Pinkerton (1758-1826), a literary antiquarian, forger, numismatist, and crank.

Maureen McLane, "From Mz N: the serial" from Same Life. Copyright © 2008 by Maureen McLane. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, All rights reserved.

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Source: Same Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)
More Poems by Maureen N. McLane