The Museum of Mary

Mary Jo Bang

                               Our Lady of Guadalupe, Tattoo,

                          Good Time Charlie Cartwright, 1997

Why shouldn’t I be a tattoo?

The world needs another mother

while the father is busy

closing his fist on a marble that’s breaking

along every fault line.

Without me, there’s so little meaning.

When my son died, I said let them

make of me what they will.

My blue mantle. My blue mind.

The kind that used to say no more

then take steps to make it stop.

I went on and on and now

I can’t stop being

whatever the world whimpers it wants.

You know I’m Jewish, don’t you?

You act as if you’d like to forget that.

I’m that something that keeps

getting smaller and smaller until—I’m

no more than a four-inch car ornament

glued to the dashboard,

my body last seen heading into a blizzard.

One day, I’m hammered wall art,

the next, I’m being spit on

in a country that’s lost its compass.

My blond hair is bleached,

don’t you know? The better to be more

porcelain skin. More golden It Girl.

More pray for me, pray for me.

More queen of countless sorrows.

More tomorrow will come like a kingdom.

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

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