Becoming Mary

Mary Jo Bang

                            Sistine Madonna, Raphael, ca. 1513–14

I waited in the car. I looked at the brick

and wondered why we were there.

Why are we here if sorrowing is all

we are made for. Later, it happened

to me, differently of course, each has

their own way of being. Everyone’s

dead except me and Barbara. What

I said, what I did, that too disappeared

behind a curtain of twilight amnesia

that was masking the blankness of fate

replicating a thread as the round head

emerged. A child can be made to say

whatever you tell her to say. I said no

but nobody listened. The cherubim

are bored. This isn’t their scene.

Barbara and I are so done up—makeup,

hair, satin fabric—it feels like prom night.

Mary Jo Bang is the author of eight books of poems, including A Doll for Throwing and Elegy. A Film in Which I Play Everyone is forthcoming in 2023. She teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.
Originally published:
June 12, 2023

Featured

Books

Life in the Algorithm

It has reshaped culture—but how? Two new books reckon with our digital predicament.
Anna Shechtman

The Night Watch

I first sought sanctuary during the Troubles. I'm still looking for it.
Darran Anderson

Why I Write

The legendary cultural critic on finding a life’s work
Greil Marcus

Newsletter

Sign up for The Yale Review newsletter and keep up with news, events, and more.