Mary Biddinger

Everyone Has an Old Neighborhood They Drift Back to in Dreams

They called me Spike, and not because of my hair. Everyone knew I was trying hard. All the cashiers on duty. Blue polyester vests behind the counter. Alma made us polish it even though it was not real wood. Lemon Pledge in archipelago. Soft-hit remakes on the radio. Hit after hit. Vibrant pink of my best rag. Evening shifts straddled midnight like a bar stool. You’d clock out on a fresh day, already ruined. We laughed at a lady buying six enemas and a box of red licorice. At the barrel of leaves that swirled in through automatic doors. Laughed when Old Jeffrey pretended he couldn’t choose between cashiers. Sixteen dollars, all singles, all damp. One nickel. A separate bag for each item. In the employee parking lot, floodlights flooded a loading dock and nothing else. Night birds crossed in factory smoke. House lamps in the hills like a children’s book with kids asleep in narrow beds.



Everyone Has a Watershed Moment That Makes Sense a Decade Later

The seminar promised to turn us into stars. On stage you gazed at the crack of light between the doorway’s legs. Your demo tape was not as good as mine, but your walk recalled a drawbridge at double speed. Overwhelmed, I asked about your “sound,” and you didn’t know what to say. Someone handed out laminated diagrams. I spent fifteen minutes memorizing every stitch of your coat. The seams looked like they were embroidered in dental floss. A worker in scrubs delivered sandwiches on a cart. Another performer’s finger tattoos read self-taught. I imagined your fingers in an antique parlor, hovering over my eyes. Attempted to rewrite the lyrics of my audition piece. Empty velvet seats like roots of missing teeth. The inside of your leather jacket illuminated by backstage strobes.



Mary Biddinger’s latest poetry collections are Department of Elegy and Partial Genius: Prose Poems, both with Black Lawrence Press. Her poems have appeared in a variety of journals, including Couplet Poetry, The Laurel Review, and Pithead Chapel, and have been featured on Poetry Daily and The Slowdown. Biddinger’s flash fiction has been published in Always Crashing, DIAGRAM, Gone Lawn, and Southern Indiana Review. She teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Akron and in the NEOMFA program, and serves as poetry and poetics editor for the University of Akron Press.