Mary Sesso


The start of a spider web caught
my eye yesterday when I saw
a single strand stretching from
its y-shaped anchor on the rib of
the patio umbrella all the way
to the chair.  This morning
there is a blanket of silk. 
With a little time, I might discover
how the clever sun spills silver
on the threads and how something
finer than a baby’s eyelash
hosts a bite that kills.  With even
more time, I could learn how
to play these delicate strings. 


                                      Tell all the truth but tell it slant—
                                                             Emily Dickinson

Why I Love Emily Dickinson

I love slant truth.  It’s like living
in a world of play where clarity
takes a back seat. When I told
my friend her painting was full
of colorful moods, I really meant
it looked sloppy.
Emily heard the clarity of a fly
at the moment her life said hello
to death.  Life hasn’t said 
a word to me, but Death is busy
speed-walking to the friend’s door,
whose tired lungs are sending regrets.
All her life she’s curled the hair
and put lipstick on her stories,
slanting them until they’re bent.
I love them anyway, like I long to love
myself, even when I blindside truth.  


Touch Scars

When I was a girl, my mother placed a silver
Miraculous Medal around my neck, believed
the Virgin Mother would keep me safe. 
And no eager boy tried to sneak me into
the utility room.
But unsafe men were everywhere in plain sight,
like the dentist who touched my breast
through the bib, the eye doctor who pinched
my nipple, the priest who lifted my plaid skirt
after daily Mass. 
The worst was the neighbor whose kids I baby-sat
when I was twelve.  His big sweaty body bullied me
into a corner, grabbing, trying to lift my sweater,
his thick legs trying to pin me against the wall,
until I was able to twist away and run home.
Each time I told my mother what happened
and each time she whispered: Don’t tell your father.
He’ll kill him.  I think she feared a bullet
from the snub nose he kept under his pillow
would shoot blame directly at me.
To keep my daughters safe, I give them words to hold
close.  No!  Stop!  Scream if you must.  And remember,
bad doesn’t just crawl through a window, hide
under a bed or in a closet.  Bad can be like a seed
burst from a plant, right in front of your eyes.


Orange And Black

Enough of snowflakes and cold. 
The deep snow’s hands are heavy,
icy gray, and hold down
my forsythia as if kneeling 
on a hard pew to pray, and covering up
two early yellow blossoms.  If I could
carry a tune, I’d sing gray a requiem
while I pray for tulips and dogwood
blooms; or wait for the Baltimore oriole
to sing, a lyric tenor all gussied up
in black and orange, colors so wild
you’d think sunset and night stole
each other’s drama.   Enough of cold and ice.
It makes the air so quiet I can hear it.


Turning Point

I’m tired of losing friends.  Three were close.
They came into my life the last time I figured
we were young.   We listened to Herb Alpert—
A Taste of Honey, Whipped Cream, The Lonely Bull,
and shared stories about kids, complaints
about husbands, how tough the balance could be.  
There are ways to stop growing old.  Darlene’s
angry pistol finally got it right, though her depression
hid behind haute couture.  Jean tried to die how many
times before hijacked pills reached critical mass.
She was found by her daughter, who in college,
died the same way  Then there’s Martha
whose body lost its fierceness.  Its flesh let the spirit
flicker away because lymphoma told it to.
This minute I’m sitting pretty listening to music,
not thinking about loss, but I feel like my house
was on fire, and I was lucky to have made it out alive.


If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the 988 Lifeline is available 24/7 across the United States. It is available for everyone, free, and confidential.

Call or Text 988 or visit

Crisis Textline:
Text ASKUS to 741741

© Mary Sesso

Mary Sesso is a retired nurse who lives in Bethesda, Md. with her dog, Beau.  She’s a member of the Writer’s Center and three poetry workshops.  Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and she’s the author of two chapbooks, The Open Window and Her Hair Plays With Fire. 


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