Mary Kathryn Arnold

Abigail; or, After Reading Carol Shields' Dressing Up for the Carnival

Exodus 2:5 "And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river's side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it."

I see England , I see
France, I see Abbie's
underpants. We stood on
a salmon-coloured

bridge, overlooking a
green river, debating
what was beneath us.
Abbie Lane's fountain

was there, and something
dead, a few condoms next
to the carrion. Before,
we stood at hooker park,

me dressed as the sheriff,
a plastic star painted
silver on my chest, and
you, no tin soldier, my

deputy. By the phone
booth, I told you a joke.
You wanted me to arch
my back, lordosis

your favourite position
(years before I took up
yoga), you wanted to
remember me as the

girl straddling the train tracks,
skirting the horizon,
piss on the tracks. I said,
"What did the tailor say

to the guy handling the
rattlesnake?" You said, "What?"
and I answered, "She
charmed the pants off of him."


Psalm 50:11 "I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine."

The guests at the dinner party
arrive two by two. The wolves are
slow to catch on to the animal
bridge (not so the deer and elk), but
once they do, look out. Mother
Nature sits on the other side
of her castle wall, reading The Lines
of My Hand
. She watches the
Clydesdale horse march in (limping with
a case of mange), staining his brown
legs with goldenrod. The pigs trounce
on the lupin leaves, shod in boots
for oil slicks. More to the air
than to anyone in particular,
Mother Nature says "You're too thin."
Even with the mountains, she has
every need of her masonry,
so she gives the order as she
rings the bell: "Pull up the drawbridge!"


Gen. 7:14 "They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort."

Gold, silver, and lead, those are her
options - which is the right choice? But
we're getting ahead of ourselves.

This is after the beginning
of the world, after the arrow
pointed the way, after the key

turned in the door. You would expect
God made the sun and the sea first,
just like you'd think the first woman's

name was Eve, or maybe even
Lilith, but no, she was Vivian,
the talking bird, and she had as

her companions not the night and
the day, but a trivet, a wok,
and a wooden spoon. But now, sufficed

(somehow some vegetables and
a bowl were found in the beginning
too), she stands in front of the vessels,

thinking she'd rather fly than talk
just now. She spreads her wings, mulling
it over, flying straight into the

simoom. Overcome by the heat
of the desert, she decides to
have what she is not, settling on

the gravity of lead. As her
beak opens to voice her desire,
the snake enters the garden in

another country; where it is
playtime in the nursery, the
teacher gets out the eraser.


Song of Sol. 7:4 "Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus."

Before the flood, before the winter,
before the pond froze over, there
was simply the tower she lived in,
and below it, a secret well,

a mouth in the earth. Against their
parents' wishes, children would run
round, searching for it, somehow never
discovering its depths. Now she

looks out the window of the
campanile, to see the ice skaters
circling the pond. Or not exactly
circling, since the pond is in the

shape of an ellipse. She cannot
remember whether she chose to
hide herself away in the tower,
like a sannyasi, or whether,

years ago, someone brought her here.
As the snow begins to fall on
the skaters, she wonders, by what
alchemy does nothing become

something? Or, this Sunday morning,
how many of the figures skating
below her are carrying Saturday
night's ticket stubs in their pockets?


Mary Kathryn Arnold's poetry has appeared in The Antigonish Review, The New Compass (online) and The Fiddlehead. In 1997, Rye Hill Press of Philadelphia (PA) published her chapbook of poems, September Fruit. Her poetry was awarded an Honorable Mention in Canada's 2007 Atlantic Writing Competition. She works in a bookstore in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she's also studying to become a librarian. Mary Kathryn Arnold is the editor of RHYTHM Poetry Magazine.


Mary Kathryn Arnold
Barbara Crooker
Josephine Jacobsen
Elizabeth M. Johnson
Athena Kildegaard
April Lindner
Ann Michael
Joyce Wilson

Meredith Bergmann: My work has always seemed cut out for me. I give myself assignments or I take commissions to find challenges to make heroic work in which the themes must be expressed with beauty and with irony. Light touches on dark subjects help me break away what's monolithic or opaque. No thing, for me, embodies mystery, gives life to clay, or conveys narrative enduringly as can the human form. Loving to sculpt and to manipulate ideas, I'm happiest when I can give new meaning to old urges, or can warm a concept into art that's worth its weight.
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