Mary Ann by Shannon Austin



She sits by the window in a small
Kansas farmhouse, weaving her fingers
through her unplaited hair as the wind
conspires with the wheat fields.

The radio warns of a tornado, but she doesn’t
close the shutters until raindrops twist the pane.



The island gets smaller, the Minnow mimicking
its namesake as it sinks into the shore,
the way it never did at sea.

And the rest go back to their lives—back
to the big screen, the country club, the university.

The papers call her the “girl-next-door” or
“the attractive brunette.”

“Farm girl.”

The island keeps on shrinking.



She turns toward the sea, blue on blue
crisscrossing plaid.

Soft waves ripple like
her gingham, curving under
her fingertips.

She almost reaches out, as if to feel the
sky flow into her palm

when smoke coils into the fabric,
rising with Gilligan’s panicked voice,
and déjà vu swells like the gulls’
canned laughter…

She doesn’t see the ocean change or
the tiny white shape that rents the horizon.



She remembers the exact day
when the world turned Technicolor.

She remembers, because that’s when people
started calling her by name.



Lightning tears the water like scissors
through denim, and they ride the jagged seams
until they find a shore.

The sand is cold and dark, but she presses
herself into it, molds the dust with her body
until she knows it will remember her.

It feels nothing like home, nothing like the
carpet of soil that feeds each ear of corn.

But she and it are uncharted, grains
of gold more numerous than the stars
just peeking from behind the thunderclouds.

She takes some in her palm and lets
them fill the lines of her hands.

This is where she’ll plant herself.



The boat is not grand, but is bigger
than any she’s seen in person.

She feels small upon it, among a movie
star and a millionaire and a professor—

but she smiles and smoothes her clothes
and tightens her pigtails and pretends.

For three hours, she can play along.



A drop trickles down her cheek, and
another freckles her arm.

She looks to the sky, slivers of grey
receding into the sunlight.

Her fingers curl around the ticket in her
hand, her name in tiny letters
crumpling in her palm.


Shannon Austin is currently working on her Master’s degree in English Literature at Notre Dame of Maryland University, as well as working as an editorial production assistant at Absolute Service, Inc., in Baltimore, Maryland. Her poems have been included in The Burlesque Press Variety Show, and her article “Batman’s Female Foes: The Gender War in Gotham City” is forthcoming from The Journal of Popular Culture.

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