Mary McGinnis

For Jamaal May

Listen to the audio version read by Melissa Cotter.

This is the first time I've read a poem
about a man losing part of his vision
because of a finger nail scraping his eye-
it's similar to an L. P. N. forgetting
to turn down the oxygen in the incubator,
as in my case, because, for us, the damage wasn't
realized until later. Nobody gave it any thought
at the time.

I was a premature baby,
you were a hero, fighting the boy who scraped you.
Now, in 2018, we look to pilfer the truth from
in 2014 when your poem came out in
Best American Poetry,
you could barely afford the eye exam.

Did kids ever call you "Cross Eyes"
or Four Eyes if you wore glasses?

As a legally blind poet, you know you can run,
paint, scrape your voice, and fight.

In brief reverie, I wonder if we're in the same
you (possibly) an African American
legally blind poet,
me, a totally blind older white woman,
also a poet.

* * *

For Jean and John

Listen to the audio version read by Melissa Cotter.

Because our chain is change,
there has to be a last time when you say goodbye,
like taking off a sock, swiftly, quietly,
and superfluous duties slide away like snake skins,
and we all have to admit,
regarding the garden entrusted to us, we failed it.

But you did make a ship of sticks
which took off for the sun,
and the air left behind
is like a first taste of a cool, fresh apple,
it is the only time.

No need to be crusty when you say goodbye,
no need to become a nervous wreck
when you say goodbye -
people do it every day.

Sometimes it is foretold,
sometimes not.

Last night the Russian sage gave off a faint scent,
and the house was dogless.

Guilt is as useless as a guitar you can't play.
You will be remembered for the ricotta cheese cake you made,
you will be remembered for your resistance,
if that's what it was.

I will remember your love of tiny boxes and bags,
because I love them too.
Finally, I know I've been talking to you.


Mary McGinnis has been writing and living in New Mexico since 1972 where life has connected her with emptiness, desert, and mountains. Published in over 70 magazines and anthologies, she has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has published three full length collections: Listening for Cactus (1996), October Again (2008), and See with Your Whole Body (2016). A recent submission to a Lummox poetry contest (2017) won first prize, and publication of a chapbook, Breath of Willow.