Three Poems

By: Mark Burr

Mississippi Mermaid

There you are stammering stories, sipping Tom Collins, when you tell me your favorites begin with “The last time I went crazy…” And I’m flashing my driver’s license to every bartender on U-Street because they’ve never seen one from Mississippi and ask me if we have dirt roads or If I wear shoes or how I ended up there because no boats from Asia beach in the Gulf. And I know you were born into a family of trees but your father also counted fish with sound waves for the NRL and he was a sailor, like all men are sailors, so you think that you were really a mermaid swimming in the Mississippi Sound and only drowning men can see you—and I see you. You tell me you have some connection to the moon like the rhythms of the tide, like wolves, like whales, that you culled pink pearls out of oysters in Charleston, that your blood is half brine and that we were all born out of water first anyway: then you show me where to look between the ripples in the Potomac. On the metro, I fall over, but you’d rather trace words like chanterelle or Occidental with your tongue touching your teeth. You get off at Georgetown but I linger. The metro closes at ten, I don’t know that, so I flag a cab to Georgetown where your rent is so high you live in a room divided and curtained off by an American flag.


it’s cold outside.
In your garage Prince is pouring out
on the TV you’ve had since you were a child.

When I’m in Biloxi
we chase bottle glass,
neon dollars, and recycled air.

We wager against the house with no windows,
where a day without sunlight
can feel just like night.

We drown in a sea of luck
where everyone loves to drown.

But you feel your dreams die
as your stomach growls.

You are a student of signs,
you read the machine like a palm
up to the universe,
you study dreams.

I can’t remember my dreams
to wish to never dream.

But I can remember you:

You are the green ivy in the morning
on Eagle Pine Island where there is only one road.

You are the saddest music juking on stein glass legs.

You are the summer on Reginald Street
where we bake in pools and float wine stems
filled with Beaujolais noveau and smoke Parliaments.

You are my Super Mario Galaxy
where all the stars are upside-down
and at my feet.

Every house you live in becomes my home.

Now I am a nomad
and nowhere feels like home.

Can I go where you go?

Let me be your canary.

Mississippi Briar Rose

We wonder when you will wake up.
Calhoun City is sleepless.
You are in the heartbeat of dreams.

13 faceless figurine angels
stare down at you from shelves
around your bed.
Spring around you like onion-grass,
and carry the knee-bent prayers
of those you have never met.

Your mother stares into her hands
as if they were a mirror
holding your face.

She cuts your hair and says your name in church.
Can you hear us?
Bur your mind is mute ,
and still we cannot dream—

we wait,
steep tea
and hear your voice
in the sound
of boiling water.

Mark Burr is a poet from Ocean Springs, MS. He was most recently published in Prairie Schooner. He is currently working on a collection.