Mary McCarthy

Don’t patronize

don’t tell me there are no rules

when I seem to have broken

most of them, enough to think

it would be wise to post a sign

“Rocks Falling,”  “No Guard Rails,”


I’ve kept both fire and laughter

close to hand, could smell

your lies before I saw you

rejoiced in kicking over buckets

of white paint, smashing glass,

defying regulations that kept

things too neat and civilized–


More than once I’ve been stopped,

locked up, confined, limited

to a small space without air

or sharp objects able to cut

cloth or rope or flesh-

all the signatures of prison

holding me back from breaking

all those nameless rules

I break without thinking, evade

without seeing how they divide

and dismiss me from

your regulated games-


More than once I’ve been told

I must be avoided

like some dangerous infection

quarantined to protect

the sane from catching

my insanity, tempting in its

freedom from regularity

its crazy spin and shine

bright and sharp as polished knives

glittering with spangles, pulsing

like a strobe light, making

the world stutter–unsafe

for even the most dull

and steady pilgrims

a threat to every honest traveler

my path veering

off the map and into the wild


Spinning too fast to catch

your words of caution

and restraint, drunk

with the glory of my own

fireworks exploding

cinders falling in bright fountains

against the dark

About the Author

Mary McCarthy is a retired Registered Nurse who has always been a writer. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including “The Ekphrastic World,” edited by Lorette Luzajic, “The Plague Papers,” edited by Robbi Nester, and recent issues of Gyroscope, Third Wednesday, Verse Virtual, and Earth’s Daughters. She has been a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee.