Mary Zeppa  

There was a body and it cast a spell..
T. Roethke


Who says
the Absence
of a Witch
his spells?
E. Dickinson



Body. Absence. Spell.

Who says those luscious
lips poured forth more wisdom
than they kissed?

In the morning, remember,
Joy left her. Joy
traveled, remember,
moved on. And Emptiness
followed her. Everywhere, everywhere.

The widow will never defer to me.
The widow will study my grief.
She will drink it down,
whiten her bones with it.

Soon, she will pulse
with my life.

The angel believes there is no one to love
but me, the last woman on earth.

Do I tell him the truth?
Is it ethics or math?
Are you solving for X,
o my love?


Rodeo Shabbat     


The rabbi tilts back his Stetson,
sweeps his silver-grey tallit
over one shoulder,
plants the heels
of his black cowboy boots
and it's soaring:  his tenor, aloft
like a banner.  They'd follow him

anywhere, tribe of this Friday night,
in their fringed leather jackets,
turquoise stars of David,
in the 10-gallon hats
they've eased over
their yarmulkes.
In Tucson, Arizona,

this temple remembers: 
Rifka and Abraham shake out
their backbones for the bubbes
who went up in smoke.  Some
who sway, who sing joy
in this radiant room, some
who clap hands to Shabbat Shalom!

could have been shadows at Dachau,
ghosts at Theresienstadt.  Now,
their voices irradiate
darkness.  Two
are waving their 10-gallon hats
for the pure joy of keeping G_d's rhythm,
on the pulse, on the pulse, on the pulse.

(Previously published in Poetry Now, June 2005.)



Who We Are
for Norma and Anne


Three skinny old ladies, all of us
blue-eyed. Three sisters who,
first, do no harm.

Always light in our alleyways: sunlight
and moonlight. Candle light when
the moon’s down.

Our brown-eyed mother goes dancing
from cloud to cloud with our dad.
They’re young lovers again. Is

he in uniform? It’s a long way
and our eyes are bad. But their joy
radiates from the place-where-they-are,

from the heaven in which they
believed. All their lives and ours
till the weepy end when we

sang to the widow-in-hospice,
each of us taking
our turn.




Mary Zeppa, a singer and lyricist as well as a poet and literary journalist, is the author of two chapbooks, Little Ship of Blessing and The Battered Bride Overture and the full-length collection, My Body Tells Its Own Story. Zeppa, in collaboration with the Award-Winning Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet, has been featured at three Sacramento Poetry Center Jazz & Poetry Live events. For 20 years, she was 1/5 of the a cappella quintet, Cherry Fizz.