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Mary Moore Easter

Years: 2012


Pushcart Prize-nominated poet Mary Moore Easter’s work has been published in, among other journals, Poetry, Seattle Review, Water Stone, Calyx, Pluck!, Persimmon Tree and Fjord’s Review, and in the anthology Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota (2015). Her chapbook Walking from Origins was published by Heywood Press in 1993. She holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence and an M.A. from Goddard. A Virginia transplant, Easter re-rooted at Carleton College in Minnesota, where she was founder and director of the Dance Program. Now emerita professor of dance, veteran dancer/ choreographer, she is a member of Penchant, aka the Northfield Women Poets,  and is represented in the association’s four anthologies: Absorb the Colours, A Rich Salt Place, Tremors, Vibrations Enough to Shake the World and Penchant (Heywood Press). Her honors include a Bush Artist Fellowship, multiple McKnights, The Loft Creative Non-Fiction Award, and Ragdale and Anderson Center residencies. She continues a second year as State Co-Mentor for the 2015 Givens Black Writers Program.


The Conjurer


A conjurer stood here in a red robe.

She-lelele, sh!, she-lelele, she-lelele, shhhhh.

She-lelele, sh!, she-lelele, she-lelele, shhhhh.


The day they brought him

through the gates

the African guards fell back

to see him yoked in wood and chains.

They would not touch him.

The trader’s manservant had to be called

to take the yoke from his neck

to shove him into the crowded cell,

“just another surly, ragged soul.”


She-lelele, sh!


The bodies parted as he stumbled in

made space around him

where there was no room.

His eyes blazed stillness

and his wrist shook rhythm

from the rattles of his bracelet.

She-lelele, sh!, she-lelele, she-lelele, shhhhh.


He never tired through day and night.

He did not open his lips

nor sit, nor sleep

as he blazed and rattled himself to purity.

The rhythm of his rattle

spread silence from cell to cell.

Cries stopped, moans dispersed,

the sick rose to their feet,

no one ate.


Two hundred years ago

a conjurer stood on this spot

in his red robe.

I leave space around him.

She-lelele, sh!




From Walking From Origins, Mary Moore Easter, Heywood Press, Northfield, Minnesota, 1993



The Activist You Don’t See


What you don’t see in the photo of me

standing beside Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon

is my brown naked body

limbs bent to match the pale profusion of angles

elbows, knees, cheekbones, breasts

my squat stripped in front of the crowd

on my mission to diversify the history of art

in a world that thinks it is white.


What you see is a sweatered tourist, prim

coward despite tufts and spikes of African hair

among lank blondes

who outnumber me in every room.


In front of Rousseau’s jungle I’d make The Dream real,

recline, spine to the viewer and, from the spiky grass,

face my conversant on her couch

white shadow dreaming herself

into my green world of snake and song.


Step out of these platforms

doff purse and pants

sport a slit worthy of any Fontana

a thatch to shame the shaved beauties of the Renaissance

bleed color and pulse out of their basement anthropology

into this High Art haven.





Payback is a bitch!


Payback was born a bitch

she didn’t just grow into it.

Never anybody’s tool

she was her own grown woman

sharp as the knife

others carried for

useless protection.

She hung out in secret

with Cousin Karma

nicknamed Karmel

when somebody mistook

slowness for sweetness

bided her time

layin’ in the cut

(Ooo, you nasty, girl!)

until the swing of her

terrible swift sword.