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Easter, Mary Moore

Easter, Mary Moore


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.

Walking from Origins, Heywood Press, 1993