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After serving in the US Air Force as an aircraft crew chief, Michael Mack worked a variety of factory and labor jobs before returning to school and graduating from the Writing Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His poems have appeared in America, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Beloit Poetry Journal, and Cumberland Poetry Review. They have aired on NPR and are appearing in Best Catholic Writing 2005. Awards include an Artist’s Grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and an Eloranta Fellowship, which funded a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre for the
Arts in Ireland.Mack has performed nationwide in venues as diverse as New York City’s Midtown International Theater Festival, the Columbia Festival of the Arts, Philadelphia Fringe Festival, Chicago’s Blue Note nightclub, the Austin International Poetry Festival, and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. A Boston Poetry Slam Champion, he has twice competed at the National Poetry Slam.
Mack regularly presents his one-man play Hearing Voices (Speaking in Tongues) for consumers and providers of mental health services notably at the national conference of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), and for faculty and students of the Harvard Medical School.
Lady of Sorrows
Why my mother chopped off her hair,
followed me to the school bus stop
that morning in second grade,
I didn’t know. Or why
she bent down sobbing
don’t let go of my hand.
How long did we stand by the 7-11?
Other kids hushed, watching.
When the bus clunked to a stop
I climbed on first, grabbed a seat in back,
my mother outside, hand curled on my window,
her face a blur
as the bus jerked away.
The kid beside me punched my arm.
Who was that man with you
crying so hard?
I said I didn’t know.
Three times I swore I don’t know him.
A finalist for the Foley Poetry Prize, “Our Lady of Sorrows” first appeared in
America, and has since been anthologized in Best Catholic Writing 2005.
On the twigs of her wrists, my mother’s hands
bobolink, titmouse, linnet, finch
Flutter in her lap, peck her blouse’s buttons
wagtail, waxwing, solitaire, brambling
Curl into nests, shivering fists
rose finch, siskin, tanager
Pale and ringless, nails bitten to the quick
They reach for a cigarette, whisk the air with matches
vireo, towhee, longspur
Doodling fingers, tapping thumbs flicker in feathers of smoke
grackle, chat, blue bunting
My mother’s wings rise in her silent room, a dance of ashes and light
diamond starling, vesper sparrow, alabaster seraphim
I touch them
“Tardive Dyskinesia” first appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association