Recent Work

Mary Avidano is working on her second book of poems, a full-length collection. Among the poems likely to be included are the following, which have been published elsewhere. She sends grateful acknowledgment to the publishers mentioned.


You know you live in a small town
when one bright morning in the fall
two horses galloping go by
your bedroom window, and you step
outdoors where they stop still under
the cottonwoods, looking at you,
breathing their freedom in crisp air
and in the same instant they bolt
away once more, huge and darkly
beautiful. You let the owners
know that Dolly and Kate are out,
and all day long you feel…chosen.

NEBRASKA LIFE, September/October, 2015


Grandma, in taking cleanliness
for godliness, scrubbed whatever
needed it. “Never scrimp on soap,”
she’d say. Frugal Grandma, watching
her pennies, saved the rainwater
from off the roof to rinse her hair.
On wash days, once the old rag rugs,
like our white underthings, were wrung,
our small hands reached up to fasten
the clothespins ‘gainst the tugging wind.
Grandma presided from the porch
and enjoyed her weekly glass of beer.
Here in my sunny laundry room
I unfold the paper wrapping
from the familiar Fels-Naptha.
taking in its fragrance is enough
for me to almost hear her saying,
“First we do all our work, then rest.”

5 X 5 POETRY JOURNAL, Summer, 2014

City Lights

The lamplighter was finishing his rounds.
–Howard C. Hanke

My father, rather a quiet man,
told a story only the one time,
if even then—he had so little
need, it seemed, of being understood.
Intervals of years, his silences!
Late in his life he recalled for us
that when he was sixteen, his papa
entrusted to him a wagonload
of hogs, which he was to deliver
to the train depot, a half-day’s ride
from home, over a hilly dirt road.
Lightly he held the reins, light his heart,
the old horses, as ever, willing.
In town at noon he heard the station-
master say the train had been delayed,
would not arrive until that evening.
The boy could only wait. At home they’d
wait for him and worry, and would place
the kerosene lamp in the window.
Thus the day had turned to dusk before
he turned about the empty wagon,
took his weary horses through the cloud
of fireflies that was the little town.
In all his years he’d never seen those
lights—he thought of this, he said, until
he and his milk-white horses came down
the last moonlit hill to home, drawn as
from a distance toward a single flame.

THE UNTIDY SEASON (The Backwaters Press, 2013); “American Life in Poetry” December, 2014


n. 1. A head scarf folded in a triangle and tied below the chin
2. in Russia and Poland, an old woman or grandmother

At fifteen I left my broken home
in Nebraska, entered a convent
in Chicago. This way at least I’d
always have a roof over my head,
the kindly grownups said with a sigh.
Once at the bus stop on Pulaski
a woman scolded me. Where is your
Babushka? She wanted to know. So
I learned a new word that winter day.
Babushka—its syllables were as
satisfying as bread, caraway
rye the kitchen Sisters baked. “Is not
the body more than clothing?” asked our
Lord, seeing the lilies of the field.
Those first years, waiting to take the veil,
I little thought instead I’d marry,
give birth, become an old grandmother
feeding my chickens.

THE UNTIDY SEASON (The Backwaters Press, 2013)

For a Survivor

Before the Exodus from Egypt,
deep within an airless turquoise mine,
a slave took up the oppressor’s tool
and with it wrote on the cavern’s wall,
O God, save me. Archeologists
of modern times bring their lanterns near
to read in proto-alphabet
this prayer or cry—on walls of prison
cells, asylums, ships, the selfsame plea.
Now, my friend, you need to ask what use
I am as your companion: is it
to say you must look on the bright side—
or try at least to count your blessings?
No, I am here (and I will be here)
only to hold the light whereby you
may look and see what is written there
in your deepest heart, the primal word.

THE UNTIDY SEASON (The Backwaters Press, 2013)

Early Work

Mary Avidano’s first poetry collection, THE ZEBRA’S FRIEND & OTHER POEMS (Zebra’s Friend Press, 2008) is a chapbook of just thirty-six poems. Here is a sampler from that book.

Near Plainview, Nebraska

Leonore’s cousin,
Leonore says,
sees everything—
and although
she lives away,
thinks this part
of the country
very beautiful.
So we look again
about us and agree
that it is.
I ponder this
for days:
how that someone
unknown to me
by such seeing
made me see
beauty in the eye
of the beholder,
if not altogether

NEBRASKA LIFE, September-October, 2005

Travelers Welcome

We’ll find perfect peace, Where joys will never cease,
Out there beneath the kindly sky.
We’ll build a sweet little nest somewhere out in the west,
And let the rest of the world go by.

–Ernest Ball, ca 1919

Hidden Paradise

Lettered in a hand from another day,
our weathered and faded sign is, for
all that, a promise—Hidden Paradise
Resort, it says. Suspended above the
steep narrow roadway between high
walls of chalky clay, it requires of
you, the world-weary, to pass beneath
on entering this canyon. The rest of
the world is out of sight and mind, you
may well step into the tumbling creek
wending among our common dreams.
Yes, we’d be dreamers, all, as over the
railings of porches or on posts next to
paths and stepping stones leading to
houses away from houses back home,
other signs promise, one generation to
the next, “Our Lil Bit a Heaven” and
“The Great Escape.” So will our lofty
pines whisper to you, this very night.


His Book of Hours

My Father, Carl

When they fought over money,
we of the six worn-out out-
grown shoes tiptoed about the
falling-down ramshackle house,
heard Mother tell Father not
to bother coming home, “less
he’d gotten paid his wages.”
Oh, but it was easier
to work hard all the long days
at this neighbor’s farm or that
one’s, for a dollar an hour
except, of course, in haying
season, when workers received
a dollar and a quarter–
—easier for him than to
go back afterwards to that
same good neighbor’s front door and
stand around in useless talk
waiting for the man to say,
“Guess we should settle up—you
got your hours along?” Then forth
from Dad’s left shirt pocket, the
one over his honest heart,
he brought the small notebook, its
exact penciled markings of
the days and hours, a living.

NEBRASKA LIFE, September-October, 2004

The Zebra’s Friend

The zebra grazing beneath
some trees in a pasture not
far from Monroe, Nebraska
cares little that he is an
object of curiosity
to motorists passing by.
Long ago he decided–
and his faithful companion
the short-legged donkey in
all solid colors agrees–
we are who we are, whether
clad in ordinariness or
in more dazzling apparel.

A Color of Blue

For Raymond

It would be too much and too
sweeping a thing to say, that
blue is my favorite color–
like saying I love music
or poetry or am fond
of people. And so I will
note here only that blue is
sometimes the color of trees
and brush, on these smoky bright
afternoons in November,
diffused in light that touches
upon branches now shed of
their leaves—and this, that I am
and have been most fond of you.


Along Cicero Avenue’s soon to be
dusky river of lights, we look for
landmarks: the Chateau Bou-Shay
where I see four bridesmaids in
gowns the color of champagne
and groomsmen in tuxes standing
about; the hubcap place of yellow
brick holding up row upon row of
glinting suns; Saint Casimir’s
Cemetery beyond a chain link fence
–to keep out the living, we say to
each other again; and there, the
D-Lux Budget Motel, its name a
fine contradiction. We should be
riding tonight in your fifties Chevy,
the pale green body, chromium trim
embossed with Deluxe, in italics,
coming down Cicero from an earlier time.