Mary Flanagan: Five Poems

Poetry: Mary Flanagan


You know what I want to have with you?

A You Can Do No Wrong

It might not be the same as

We’ve Weathered Many Storms

I’m Sick Can You Share My Pain

Why Did You Cheat On Me

We Lost The Baby

Rather can we tune our radios
To another unconditional

Without carving into the slippery sea
Without touching the

Earth at all

The One and Only Thing

collected symbols
crowd under the cliffs
now me       among the wives of the eels

I am stop swimming
swimming me       I am 


a body deeply
and bigger
than others

no alewife, no fish channels
inside the walls
you, smoked, on our full full bed

your iron-fin, a muffling
against the sound (blanketed)
the noise against entirely

drains minutes—
full of history
of loose and animal

I dissolve the granite’s white small light
as coal-mine
I dissolve as whale-prey    as song

Parking Lot at Whole Foods

She’s slumped in the banged up
Black Lexus as I run

Through the shiny black lot in rain
Dark corner painted darker

A window shade perched
To hide the needle in her calf

From the moon
Her woven shirt hung to

Block the other windows
She will awake

Before dawn, a wolf with light
In her eyes

She will awake

Being Transformed into a Phoenix

You had better not fucking die
because I need you to kill me first
yes—plan it   bury the body
when it comes to that, but
not today

I get to die first, amidst small murmurs
a tiny creaking door to elsewhere a child’s lips open just
so, rapt with hero’s tales   carry me oh jousting steed
oh shaman’s magic smoke oh coffee oh breakfasts

is not here, not yet anyway, I don’t want
to pour out the wine— blanket me
away fold me into you, you who are comfortable and
worn and fearless I get to die first, hear me!
only yesterday

I turned a cha cha cha in the catacombs
pressed close the swarthy roots of trees; they dipped
me so low my hair kissed rotting logs   draped along
empty noses   the music slowed

know my little request, with the sweet end of time
held in my mouth
the heartbeat slows under the skin of the
world   cut and changed


Substance A Always Reacts to Substance B

Suppose you could not remember when the small boats
Took to the moors on trust

It is written that
When doubt came:

(sense deception, forgery and the like)
A hunger ago this table didn’t exist

Nor did the mountain
And this wine

Nor did the murder
Or this wolf

Masks a false picture of doubt
Perhaps scientific, perhaps philosophical


You know that the world
Is 100 years old

There must be some basic principle
Where ice cream is really magic

And crows gather in the evening
Trees as no one watches

Mary Flanagan has written or edited five books and works across genres including essays, poetry, and fiction. The Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor of Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College, she is also a well-known game designer with over thirty games to her credit. Her fourth acclaimed book, Critical Play (MIT, 2009), revealed the incredible art history of games; Values at Play in Digital Games (with philosopher Helen Nissenbaum; MIT, 2014), demonstrates that thinking about values in games is key to innovation. Ghost Sentence, a volume of her poems, was released at the end of 2017.


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