Whichever Way the Moon
Mary Ann Honaker
ISBN: 978-1-59948-971-1, 72 pages, $14 (+ shipping)
Release Date: October 18, 2023
The Advance Sale Discount price on this title has expired. For those who prefer to pay by check, the price is now $18/book (which includes shipping) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, 4416 Shea Lane, Mint Hill, NC 28227.
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Mary Ann Honaker is the author of Becoming Persephone (Third Lung Press, 2019), and the chapbooks It Will Happen Like This (YesNo Press, 2015) and Gwen and the Big Nothing (The Orchard Street Press, 2020). Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has won first place in the West Virginia Writers Contest for Long Poetry in 2022. Her work has been included in Women of Appalachia Projects’ Women Speak anthologies, in Nixes Mate‘s anthology, In the Time of Covid, and Lily Poetry Review’s anthology, Voices Amidst the Virus. She currently lives in Beaver, West Virginia.
Honaker’s poems rise up out of the natural world: the cityscapes and the pollen-dusted sunsets. She knows her landscape well and she uses it to guide us honestly through the nostalgia and the sorrow, and the meditations on the human spirit. As much as these poems are portraits of people and place, they also ask questions of us and make cogent observations with a wise and spiritual voice. ~Kevin Carey, author Set in Stone and Jesus was a Homeboy
The poems in Whichever Way the Moon are rooted in a United States scarred by Covid-19, gun violence, brutal men, and yet they return to the love “that conjures the melodies.” Mary Ann Honaker’s vision is a world “seen from behind / my sheer curtain, my dark glasses, / my lampshade” but it is illuminated. And in these goldenrod poems, Honaker “calls the soul up to the surface where it glimmers, stony, broken, grassily waving.” ~Jennifer Martelli, author of The Queen of Queens and My Tarantella
Wholly engaging, often heartbreaking, Mary Ann Honaker’s Whichever Way the Moon is an ambitious and accomplished collection. The thrill of her poetry rests in being part and apart of the West Virginia landscape, both striking and challenging as the poet confronts and celebrates this otherness. With grace, humor, and insight, Honaker’s unique perspective feels like a long intake of mountain air. A surprise of language from line to line. ~January Gill O’Neil
The Weeping Woman
At night, I hear the weeping woman:
always when the lamps are out,
and a yellow rose of dim light blooms
into the room from the deck,
(the security cameras running,
humming from the little closet,
we are lit on all sides, safe here)
she starts up just behind the wall,
a low voice, not like my mother’s,
more bass, a heavier sound.
There are the spirits that knock
on the walls and pop the floorboards
and pace heavily back and forth
on the back porch, even one
that whistled back a short tune
from the closet, an answer
to my whistling snore. But none
come more than the weeper:
she’s wept all this Covid season.
Sometimes I think that is what
she is, a collection of weeping,
one weeping for all
seven hundred thousand plus
dead in two years’ time.
We who lived as two apples
ripening on one branch,
so close we began to fuse,
now live on opposite coasts.
With your asthma, if infected–
[ I can’t say it ] I can’t
stand by your bedside.
I won’t press my palm
against the protective glass
between me and you.
And oh god if you die,
believe me, I will die too
while still living like a dried
gourd. Shake me to hear
my empty percussion,
my little reliquary of bones.
If death comes wheezing and gasping
for me, I want to but won’t be
under the earth beside you.
It’s the week after El Paso
and Dayton, Ohio. The grandsons
are here for a visit and my mother
has bought them new Nerf guns.
I’m not judging here–two Christmases
ago I bought them semi-automatic
Nerfs that could fire thirty to fifty
soft foam rounds in one great blaze.
My brother’s house was peppered,
pellets in between couch cushions,
wedged under decorative lamps,
rolled under end tables.
When we were kids, we played
the cooler version of Cops and Robbers:
Cops and Drug Dealers.
We had tiny pistols that cracked,
argued over who was now dead,
raced around on bikes
equipped with yellow plastic sirens
bolted tight to the handlebars.
The sirens had three settings:
Police Car, Fire Truck, and Ambulance.
We never used Ambulance;
we never dreamed of aftermath–
but now of course kids do.
Kids young as we were then
have known aftermath as a spill
of red from their own bellies.
The middle boy immediately
schooled the younger one
on these more complicated,
more life-like guns.
Soon there was an argument.
The ten-year-old strapped
one gun into a shirt waist-tied,
another down the back of his T-shirt,
and held the third, true child warrior
stance. He crept room to room
targeting the four-year-old,
who cried, Don’t shoot me!
But you shot me in the face!
the older child tattled. Dad grasped
the guns from their hands
but not before
the ten-year-old, seething with fury,
pinged a plastic bullet casing
hard on the hardwood floor.
His cry of unfair so loud
we all jumped a little, shocked.
Super Soakers were the rage
when I was in high school.
There was a summer spate
of Super Soaker drive-bys,
like real drive-bys except
victims were only surprised, wet,
and sometimes, even, refreshed.
After El Paso I refreshed my screen
and watched the death toll rise.
The grandkids–my nephews–
watch hour upon hour
of safe, silly, violence-free
cartoons. But they know
how to jam a cartridge in,
how to rest the butt on a shoulder,
how to pull the trigger.