Mary Biddinger


As kids we’d fuck around in the abandoned mine
like it was a vintage schoolhouse. My hair both
hair and kerchief, sometimes also our flag. Dashed
with thistles for its stars. I couldn’t tell you how
to get back there except accident. Road now paved
at least on surveillance footage. My hair remains
an attic filled with boxes from previous tenants.
A rehabber tore down the old corner store. Rebuilt
an even older corner store but with vinyl-wood
flooring. We used to ease ourselves into a giant oak
rotten at the roots. Once I demanded to be dragged
back to the surface by my hair. Which is to say
not by someone pulling my hair. Constant fringe
of cicada noise, truck brakes, forty-watt bulbs.
Window blinds splayed in pines. Teenagers
chased something furred and blurry along the river.
Everyone had a favorite smokestack on the horizon.
Gave them sexy names like cigarette, loverboy. 


My head was an old mill we used to break into
down by the creek with its nonstop grind
while people unzipped tents downstream,
tabs settled for the night. Gold Chevy Nova,
cigarettes that smelled like burning glass tubes,
an old woman washing dress socks inside out.
I held my head like a basket I did not own,
the tentative way you drive a lover’s truck
when you’re not supposed to be inside,
counting bug bites or minutes. Vanishing
on command. Many evenings the sky was
a blood clot. I believed I could bite through
my lip easy as closing hands around a field
sparrow. But the mill throbbed, oblivious. 

From the Author: “Sugar Stack, Skybaby” and “Vanish on Command” are from a new series of creepy little Midwestern poems that feature, in some way, my head and my hair. Is that weird?

Mary Biddinger’s newest poetry collection is Department of Elegy (Black Lawrence Press, 2022). Her poetry and flash fiction have recently appeared in Bennington Review, Crazyhorse, DIAGRAM, Gone Lawn, and Thrush Poetry Journal, among others. She lives in Akron, Ohio, where she teaches and edits the Akron Series in Poetry at the University of Akron Press. She is currently at work on a flash fiction novella that chronicles the adventures of grad school roommates in late 1990s Chicago.