"...Sniff Is The Portal To Memory": 3 Exquisite Poems By Foley Prize Winner Marjorie Maddox

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"...Sniff Is The Portal To Memory": 3 Exquisite Poems By Foley Prize Winner Marjorie Maddox

Marjorie Maddox charms through her delightful words.


after “the incident”

What it smells like
she can’t remember, but not
like dirt or dust or cum,
not like backwoods or back doors
or back yards. Back when she could
remember, it didn’t smell. Smell
didn’t hang low or often. Often,
she’s told, sniff is the portal
to memory but why portal the whiff
of this? Back when she had nostrils
that inhaled the whiff of who and when,
she had taste buds. Taste she remembers.


Story Re-told as Half Triolet

On Mother’s Day, she jumps out of the car.
The traffic swerves and brakes. Nobody dies.
This is the broken family that they are
on Mother’s Day. She jumps. Out of the car,
she runs away. The highway is the scar
they can’t escape, the if they hear her cry
to Mother. That day, she jumps. Outside the car,
traffic swerves. She breaks nobody. Survives.
This is the frightened family that they are
the Mother’s Day she jumps out of the car
and runs. The way is high and hard, the scar
can’t be escaped, no if about her cry
of “Mother!” Today, she runs. They jump out of the car
to brake the pain. Bodies’ traffic swerves.
Will they survive?


Unholy Days

October 27, 2018

And still what has already begun
continues in its beginning each second
the news captions click into place,

three days and yet more horror,
such sinister trinity of rage and now
the Sabbath splattered. Broken,

we come to Sunday, open our palms
beyond such swallowing of sorrow
that now implodes in the throat, shatters

the semblance of words, re-detonates
in the ears and the brain: babies’ screams—
a bris, a baptism; the one teen, the many,

the crucifix penetrating; the brothers
bathed in blood on the Synagogue floor;
the Mass mangled, a priest cleansing

his hands of cum; the pipe bombs
packed on trucks traversing through
your neighborhood, to your doorstep, to mine.

What else tied up, packaged, stamped
with a seal of allowance in this country
of kneeling and rising where recited prayers

mark a target on the faithful from inside walls
and out, and children elect the risk
of attendance, obedience and rebellion|

both ammunition for someone who wants
you/me gone. O God of suffering,
O deserted, murdered God,

wounded and weeping,
we lay our temples of blood
at your twisted feet.


Winner of America Magazine’s 2019 Foley Poetry Prize and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published 11 collections of poetry—including Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); True, False, None of the Above (Illumination Book Award Medalist); Local News from Someplace Else; Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite); four children’s books; Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor); Presence (assistant editor); and 550+ stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies.

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