Mary Jane White – Three Poems


White Buffalo

Foretaste of spring, red haze, then green haze,
Tiny leaves breaking open in the trees,
Sky of stormy clouds, scissored by sun-rays,
Ford over the running water with green

Margins, a muddy brown herd of snow-
Melt, upon which the brisk wind has lapped
Long ripples of small white-caps . . .
For the still, blue eye of the white buffalo.

Open, clouded, and gilded as the sky,
It seems to gather into its body all the fresh
Odors of grass and running manure by
A rough shake of its head over the sluice

Of old and new travelling together,
Moving the deep bed of the river, first
One way and then another.

How Is It Enough To Say

The wise are not flustered,
With one searching out this or that object
That is truly lost?
Some shuttle, some key, some note.

One remark to bring solace.

How is it ever enough to say
The humane are not melancholy,
When this or that one is clearly both
At some juncture?

How is it enough to say

The bold are not anxious,
When this or that may prove unworthy
To do, actually?
Some venture, some truce, some war.



One who is late now runs to the door
Of her godforsaken wooden house


Through the first large & heavy drops


For many days lighter rans than were predicted
Lighter & then never
After their first erasures
Their first droplets


So it is as written


Not rescuing you
But plowing the sky


The clouds great soliloquizers
Beyond all entreaty or agreement
Their sinful gold-glint of high darkness
Their nothing slowly undoing one another
Uninterruptedly as in a love of oblivion
Or an humblness that mounts over you
Within this place & leaves you & many
With no suspicion of any infidelity to obliviousness


Nothing so preventable nor so flat of affect
As the nights of our familiar past


But how the past dissolves apparently slowly
With an evanescent rising
Bringing something like a trackless waste


As needles fall upon needles
As death becalms death


Or shall there yet be celebrations
A breakthrough upon reason
A sharpening of the belief that even our city
May fall to drought


Whether this prediction trouble us
Or be false
How familiar a complaint


Put away your concern cries the lightest rain


Welcome your future
Nearer than it was wont to come ever before
Entering the windows you have opened to it


& the small intimations once so far from you
Are come suddenly raucous over the roof


Ah these are the continuances of a moment
Nothing is in dispute
I return albeit unwillingly
That you be tempted to adhere
O longer & longer to quiescent hope
& if our laughter make no pronouncement upon this
I return home again
& while this feeling may linger a lifetime
There now it is past


Dropping its warm gulf of moisture


Put away the self
That it may never again fall out of the sky
With its new-born self-absorption


Let it take me out of mind
How the sun is become lawless
& how it shall become a quietude
Within our compounding


& how the separation of my parts
Shall be unknowing
Breaking no silence
& even now is travelled beyond
& how indifference is absorbed into an unbraiding
Begun at the apex of life’s-molecule


The one brewed within all your previous
& celebrated passings-over


So I stand cooling
As I may believe
As unneeded seed lured
Downward & nearer the bottom
Sinking too early
To retard the deaths of mature forms


O that all these mature forms may be preserved
& also their nymphs from the beginning
In the past’s ever-quickening narrows
In its long-rushing white-waters


O may I stand quiet
Before the lightest rains of tomorrow
Stand mute


Oblivious of every erasure


I think how quickly you think on your useful feet
On your toes in the dust


In your forgetting
& not speaking
& of the gone year
At its emptiest


Out of which pours
A profound groan
A final earthen-darkness


& then some sane lemony light pointedly
Through a door left ajar
As a single straight spire might ripple up
Against masses of heavy cloud
So like an unbroken brow
A broad swath unmoving upon the sky
Beneath this moon
With all these stars drawn back
Shining without being remarked


Small exhalations producing no movement
No winking of any eye


May this light rain fall on me in contempt of all order
As you remain unbowed
Unchanged from the beginning


Though we fail again of all hilarity


Letting rise again the one who had covered us
First as a god
& then as manifest in all the earthly forms
That have pleased us


Author’s Statement on Beauty

White Buffalo is an attempt at song.  How Is It Enough To Say is a quarrel with certain tenets of Confucian thought—carried forward in song.  Apex is a meditation—in the now near-erased voice of prayer—written in fragments of song. Beauty is a lasting song.  In some form.


Mary Jane White is a poet and translator, from Amen Lake, Deer River, Minnesota, MFA University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, received NEA Fellowships in 1979 and 1985 in both poetry and translation, twice awarded writing scholarships to Bread Loaf (1979, 2016) and to Squaw Valley Community of Writers (2006). Her Book Starry Sky to Starry Sky (1988) is available from Holy Cow! Press, and contains translations of Marina Tsvetaeva which first appeared as a long feature in The American Poetry Review. Recent Tsvetaeva translations include: New Year’s, an elegy for Rilke, a chapbook from Adastra Press (Massachusetts); “Poem of the Hill” in the Summer 2007 issue of The New England Review; “Poem of the End” in the Winter 2008 issue of The Hudson Review, reprinted in two anthologies, From a Terrace in Prague, (Prague 2011) and Poets Translate Poets, (Syracuse 2013). More at: