Mary Jo Bang
Washington University in St. Louis
Campus Box 1122
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
Contemporary Literature; Poetry Writing
Professor Bang is the author of seven books of poems, the most recent of which is The Last Two Seconds (Graywolf Press, 2015). Her other books are Apology for Want (1997), which was awarded the 1996 Bakeless Prize and the 1998 Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award; Louise in Love (2001), which received the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay di Castagnola Award for a manuscript-in-progress; The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans (2001); The Eye Like a Strange Balloon (2004); Elegy (2007), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award; and The Bride of E (2009). She was the poetry co-editor at Boston Review from 1995 to 2005. She’s been the recipient of a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation, and a Berlin Prize fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin. She has a B.A. and M.A. in Sociology from Northwestern University, a B.A. in photography from the Polytechnic of Central London, and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia University. Her 2012 translation of Dante's Inferno, with illustrations by Henrik Drescher, was named a Notable Book by both the Academy of American Poets (2012) and by the American Library Association (2013).
A CALCULATION BASED ON FIGURES IN A SCENE
There are still many marvels, you know.
The festivals on Fridays. The divider
in the center of the wasteland.
On this side—flesh; on that—an iron claw
and a new-made screw
fallen from the factory window
at noon. The doll doctor pushes the arm
back into the socket. “There,” he says.
Day is done. He wishes he could smoke
but he gave that up long ago.
The rubber sole of the nurse’s right shoe
makes a squeak when she reaches the room.
Silence surrounds the empty bed.
The body is elsewhere.
“When they want more,” she says, “I give it.”
“When they want less,” she says,
“I take it away. I always let them choose.”
The doctor drums his fingers
on the doll’s flat abdomen. A sea of blood
moves back and forth to a song of no mercy.
From The Last Two Seconds, Mary Jo Bang (Graywolf Press, 2015)
This poem first appeared in Kenyon Review
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