Poet Marguerite Harrold

The Lessons  


The old woman’s stories can only be corroborated by the dead

Cut glass the shapes of women’s bodies

Contain a cast of loose lipped spirits


Phantom jars

Her mother’s treasures

We’ve heard she keeps them next to the money


All remains untouchable

What we know

Collected rumors               Remnants of tales

Holes as deep as the pores we inherited


Our collaborations fall prey to her moods



sometimes our birthright

sometimes our betrayal


What we know

Fragmented bone

Planted into rows


Raised from our scalps

Stretching our eyelids

Tightening our jaws


Our history folds from her tongue

As she speaks we know ourselves


As she speaks the sun surrenders

What we know eludes us



Some Songs

Some songs     some truth touches some voices

They reach in through your chest without permission

Hold it open like Hanuman standing

Staring you down


A sting from the ear to that place where there is no name

That pain strategically placed escapes

Saved scars scramble back

The unleashed heart heaves in the streets


Old wounds run down

Like April sleet in Chicago

One note 

Three droplets drown the back


An icy sliver that touches bone

And there’s no way to warm


A suicidal seagull skims on its belly across the top of an El Train


Then sets itself to relaunch


A fatalistic pigeon flings itself up against the rain

Into a car at the cross walk

Trying to escape a dog on a leash


What’s playing           It’s that Usher song “Climax”

And I don’t even like Usher 

And break up songs make me gag


There’s no love like that here for me

Like the seagull         I listen and let it loose 


Imagine my heart cobbled beneath stone feet

Knowing I’ll only regret

Looking at the mangled little thing


I wish I could shut my heart down like one of those abandoned factories you see

On the way to Michigan


   Through South Chicago       Through Indiana

Still     Pale blue and grey towers    Leaned up against the lake

Leaded broken window panes in patterns that cut light and shadow


Sledge hammers and soiled back braces left in place

As if everyone suddenly stopped in the middle of the day


Then sulked away silent     And left them standing        Still ready to work


Brown paper sack lunches stankin’ still in the refrigerator


Crib sheets and completion logs hang on clipboards

Between thick dried out strips of paint

Fainting from the wall


Hardhats scattered in the hall

Head prints almost still sweating



Letting Go
For My Mother

These mountains are bigger than Death

In her pretty red shoes

Bigger than the women who came

To escort you in their

Bumpy Johnson era dresses

One with a book, one with a watch

* Ellsworth Raymond “Bumpy” Johnson   (October 31, 1905- July 7, 1968) was an African American  gangster and community member in Harlem in the 1930’s & 1940’s



Poetry by Marguerite L. Harrold

Marguerite L. Harrold has an MFA from Columbia College Chicago. She was nominated for the 2020 Pushcart Prize and an Illinois Arts Council Grant. Her poems can be found in: The Chicago Review: The Black Arts Movement in Chicago Special Issue, VINYL Poetry, Pulpmouth, The Matador Review 

About the contributor

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