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May 2023

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Dr. Mary K. Lindberg

Dr. Mary K. Lindberg holds a doctorate in English Literature from New York University and Oxford; she studied piano at Eastman School of Music.  She is a poet, author, musician and a performer. Her prize-winning poems have appeared journals such as Beloit Poetry Review, Evening Street Review, Blueline, Waterways, Gallery&Studio, Epoiesen: A Journal of History and Archaeology, and l Serenade. She has six poems in the Poets of the Vineyard Anthology River of Stars (2022). She was Grand Prize winner in the 2021 Dancing Poetry Contest and United Poets Laureate International Poet of the Month (December 2021).

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A young turbaned woman walks
into your life, stares at you —
charmed, attracted, or alarmed, distracted.
Green white-flecked eyes make you squirm;
her silence stuns your sound barrier.

You can’t put her back in the frame.
Rosy mouth parted, her gaze breathes
a mute command or query.
What is she trying to say?

Did she forget to tell you she loves you?
Are you aware the painter’s wife suspects you?
Or, is she just reminding you — don’t forget your keys?
Your hand checks your pockets.

Her white eyes, collar, earring,
embraced by shadows, like desires,
whirl from another century to lasso you.
Out of blackness her gaze stirs a swirl
of thoughts you never had, or dreamed you could.

Rooted to the spot the way she
is locked in oil, you want
to will her away —
but she, quickened by paint,
will never leave you.

● Second Prize, Artists Embassy International Dancing Poetry Contest, 2022 ● Published in River of Stars: Poets of the Vineyard Anthology, 2022.

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“He pressed her to his breast in the shameless,
indecent whirling-dance of the Germans…”*

Round and round, gilded age carousel never stops
gliding to calliope sounds, painted horses,
standers, jumpers, squeals of delight.

Two Viennese ladies select a palomino’s
wide seat. Hands grasp swirling shawls
as they rise, fall to Johann Strauss’ waltz music.

They gossip about last night’s ballroom dance
of swiftly whirling couples, scent of flirtation,
taste of temptation.

Dashing uniformed officers held their waists,
gloved hands, admired sheen satin colors,
lace holding up bare shoulders.

Locked looking in candlelight’s blur,
language of eyes, timid smiles, blushes,
faint perfume, tender touch.

Couples swayed to the triple time of Strauss
with sliding grace — to open, promenade,
a daring turn under a partner’s arm.

The roots of life’s gamble in love
bloom in the brisk three-beat
rhythm of the waltz.

In its graceful, circular motion
lies the gyre of eternal romance,
the secret, silent poem of dance.

Second Prize, Artists Embassy International Dancing Poetry Contest, 2022, published in River of Stars: Poets of the Vineyard Anthology, 2022)
*From a 1771 German novel by Sophie von La Roche.

[Inspired by the 1906 painting “Carousel” by Ukrainian painter Olexandr Murashko (1875-1919)]

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Sounds of falling debris, siren whines,
random explosions, gun shots. Shouts.
Screams. Silence taut as barbed wire.

Wind sucks curtains out of broken windows
like loose sails. Shattered buildings moan.
Drums of war. Every breath may be the last.

In the rubble of Karkhiv’s former city square,
a young cellist on a broken chair plays Schubert.
His notes smother grief, call forth inner peace.

Melodies rise, fall everywhere, like soft
cut hair. Pleasing sounds in acrid air open
damaged doors, resonate to order, beauty.

An elderly woman in blood-stained overalls halts,
hands full of trash. Struck by music’s purity,
she begins to sway, a broken statue come to life.

Church bells toll. She smiles, enjoys lightness of being.
War’s dissonance intrudes, incessant clatter,
cacophony, blasts. Everyone runs.

Next day the musician returns to his stony stage —
cello, life, intact. As his bow touches strings, Schubert’s
mellow, haunting melodies explode into life and peace.

(Published in River of Stars: Poets of the Vineyard Anthology, 2022)

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Slave Plotinus slithered through crowds,
snake in a labyrinth, head down, feet
close together, naked under a toga
borrowed without asking
from his master Lucius Gaius Caesar.

He couldn’t end his habit of taking things,
hurried to the men’s baths, relished the chance
to rifle through clothes left on shelves by bathers.
A bag of gold coins! Thank you, Fortuna!
No time to count. He left, treasure under toga.

Outside he saw black clouds race over
Pompeii’s villas, houses, bars, brothels;
felt a tremor that made him lose balance.
From the rutted road a chariot shot into the air,
then toppled. Horses reared, eyes bulged in fear,
driver jettisoned. Shaking buildings, people
streaming from houses, shops — screams, shouts.

When a soft spongy substance fell like misty rain,
Plotinus glanced up at Vesuvius, where twisted tufts
of flames raged silently near gnarled gray vapors.
Like ghosts dancing on graves.

A dark mass filled the sky, killed the sun.
Roiling seas lapped the beach; Leviathan’s mouth
gathered stray boats, chewed them into pieces.
A slow-moving, unstoppable river of steaming
lava approached; the hot hissing sounds
convinced Plotinus this was his punishment.
He fell to his knees — Jupiter, let me live to return the gold.

Few escaped that day.

Plotinus was found centuries later,
a threadbare bag of gold under his arm,
repentant but rigid in plaster.

First Prize, People Category, Ina Coolbrith Circle 102nd Poetry Contest, 2023

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