Grace Bauer: Three Poems
Selected by Alexis Rhone Fancher, Poetry Editor
UPDATE ON EMILY
Because Death stops for everyone
and is rarely ever kind,
she writes her letters to the world—
just a piece—for the peace—of her mind.
The world—of course—rarely replies.
Not even an email or text.
When you’re a fly on the wall—a Nobody—
it’s a silence you learn to expect.
Yet the letters have become a way
of life—or rather—living—
as natural to her as air—and breath—
her religion—a kind of believing.
Will her words ever dazzle?
Shine—faint light—through the cracks?
Either way—in the end—
she knows we’re all—called back.
The novices led us
in prayer and solemn novenas.
Their silence and black habits
trailed the cloister’s corridors.
But we were tired of the protection
of Our Lady of Hungary, and took off
with the Saint Joe’s crowd,
who taught us how to inhale
Lucky Strikes, shake
aspirins into cokes for a buzz.
A senior from Perpetual Help
explained to us what fuck meant,
diagraming the details
on the back of her missal
during a morning High Mass.
I daydreamed through
the Offertory and the Consecration,
wanting to witness the miracle
of a boy’s body doing
what I now knew men did.
When the bells chimed I lined-up
for Communion with the other girls,
though the sin I had in mind
was surely mortal. I crossed
myself as the priest
whispered Body of Christ.
In my unholy heart, I knew
there was no turning back.
MIDLIFE HEAVY METAL
I know I’m not the only woman in the world
who spent her adolescence lusting
to a backbeat and still, in some part of herself
she has grown to deny, can’t resist
a big-mouthed bad boy, surly siren
in tight pants who swaggers and snarls
and screams his heart out
in the name of Rock & Roll.
There he is on my TV screen:
older than I am and showing his age
but still strutting what stuff he’s got.
He’s Heathcliff with a microphone,
a long tall glass of water
spiked with acid and desire,
his hair a black mass
of styling gel and tease,
mouth a severe weather warning,
eyes an invitation to a party
we’ll regret if we go to. Or not.
Oh, we know better. Or at least
we know we should. But somewhere deep
inside we still long for all the trouble
he could stir up; we want to hear every lie
we know by now his kind tells.
We want to lie back, strut our own stuff,
and be just a little bit like him —
the bad boy every good girl is inside.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Grace Bauer’s most recent collection is Unholy Heart: New and Selected Poems (University of Nebraska Press, 2021). Previous books include MEAN/TIME, The Women At the Well, Nowhere All At Once, Retreats & Recognitions, and Beholding Eye, as well as several chapbooks. She also co-edited the anthology Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse. Her poems, essays, and stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, and have been awarded an Academy of American Poets Prize, the Society of Midland Authors’ Book of the Year Award, The Idaho Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Nebraska Arts Council, The Virginia Commission for the Arts, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, and others. She has also received numerous awards for her teaching. Bauer is the Aaron Douglas Professor Emerita at the University of Nebraska.