Turning Air Into Gold / Mary E. Martin


Turning Air Into Gold

poems by

Mary E. Martin

ISBN: 978-1-59948-855-4,  50 pages, $13 (+ shipping)

Release Date: March 30, 2021

An Advance Sale Discount expired February 1. For those who prefer to order by check, the price is $17/book (which includes shipping and applicable tax) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001. 


Mary E. Martin is a poet, dancer, and teacher at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. She grew up in the west and the south, preferring the rich landscape of the south. She explores a fusion of text, movement, and music in community performance projects she has developed in the Carolinas. Her poetry has appeared in many journals, including The Kansas Quarterly, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and The Southern Poetry Review.

This little collection is a celebration of movement woven with poems filled with rich imagery, crafted with language that is economic and lyrical. Mary E. Martin explores space — sky, water, earth, stage and studio with surrealist tone. It is a narrative of the body, yet of the soul as well. It is a journey through loss and joy. A lovely collection to read and re-read. ~Jonathan K. Rice


Mary Martin, unlike any other poet of my acquaintance, is a trained modern dancer who combines the gestures, physicality and grace of movement in dance with a passionate connection to language. Her new collection of poems, Turning Air Into Gold, illuminates and explores aspects of the body and its lyrical possibilities, connecting the two arts in ways that surprise, delight, and intrigue us. From “Juliet”: “ . . . like gifts / we’ve never imagined / before; a sudden / turn and spiral/ to the floor is not / death, but a new/ way of touching// the earth . . . .”  ~Susan Ludvigson

The Small Dance

For Nancy Stark Smith


Even when standing
still, your stillness
moves, so many
worlds within you
just as wild
as the universe outside:
but imagine the lake
at your core—sea moss
billowing, willow leaves
stirring the water’s surface;
dragonflies, their luminous
meanderings, raise you
to feel the sky,
allow the sky to pour
through you
while you stand
to the lucid edge.



“I could waltz across Texas with you”


Of course I’m excited
when you ask me to move
the desert in three-four time.
The dance may be jerky, brambles
sticking to our clothes,
but our feet toughen with each measure
sweeping us farther and smoother;
nothing can stop this momentum,
not even the burn
from our grasping turns,
the dizzy air of sun, or our panic
for a polka that wants to run past rhythm.
Air lifts, assumes our voices;
lost in steps, in the beveling
of our words, syllables curve
skyward from our pivoting bodies.
The slope of our phrases gives
shoulders to the moon;
and there we balance
the moon with our thoughts,
luminous, gliding horizontally, not knowing
when the prairies will end.





A little shy, wandering
the party after a concert when
a woman who had taught me
dance turned quickly–
her hand spearing to find me,
a drink in the other—and proclaimed
I was a hermaphrodite.
Who could respond to that?
The word—even after looking it up—
felt like a costume from another planet.
Could she be calling me a worm? A snail?
Past lovers would swear
by my feminine allure.

Yes, as a dancer I slinked
across the stage in unitards
like other dancers, always
moving fully present
in my strength.

Years after remembering
her accusation, I still see
her little eyes behind
thick glasses, hiding
a reptilian mind.
But I don’t care;
I entertain the possibilities
like a single-handed clap
curling around itself
in glee, like wishing
I could pollinate myself
And see what happens.



Falling into Place


Ribs settle
from a deep, long

journey of breath;
arms lull shoulders

closer to the unplumbed
current of the heart.

At this point our well
traveled bodies

like the eye

of the peacock feather
we are the radiant

place where
an ocean of night

turns blue then green
then gold.


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