Mary Shanley Poetry


She was an apparition.

One of the infinite sorrows,

dropped out of eternity

and onto a bench

in Washington Square Park.

Where she sat, gray of hair.

 Her delicate, wisp of a body

enwrapped in a

black lace shawl.

She buried her face

in deeply wrinkled,

heavily veined hands.

I bowed my head as I

passed by, in deference

to her privacy,

in reverence

to her solitude…

as if she were one

of the “hallowed” ones

who had seen enough,

and it was now time

for her to close her eyes

and let the rest of us

look upon what this world

has wrought.

A poem not dedicated to henry kissinger

I was listening to this

smoking saxophone solo

in a little club uptown.

It was around two in the

morning when Henry Kissinger

waltzed in with this doll on his arm.

They sat at the table directly

in front of the stage.

Nobody seemed to recognize him.

Probably thought he was

just another whitey,

come uptown to

improve his soul some…

However, I found his presence

highly disturbing

and was getting up to leave,

when the waiter

came over and told me

the gentleman in the

pinstriped suit,

with the attaché case

handcuffed to his wrist,

would like me

to come over and join

he and his date.

Oh Come On!

This can’t be happening!

The sickest bastard on the planet

wants me to join him?

And I can’t

refuse, knowing Henry is a trigger

happy madman.

So, I go over and join them,

just as the band is taking five.

Henry introduces himself as Johnnie Taylor

and the doll is Miss Ginger Spice.

I told them I was Mary Shanley,

too nervous to lie.

They were ordering a late night snack

and asked if I wanted to order anything.

I asked for a small bowl of chili.

Oh No! Chile!

Why did I have to mention Chile

in front of Henry Kissinger!

Now he probably thinks

I’m one of the Allende sympathizers

that his death squads missed.

I break into a sweat. The band

is back. They’re playing Stormy Monday.

Shit. That sax player is hot!

Ginger gets up to use the bathroom

and Henry starts rubbing my leg…

I’m in shock!

Now he’s whispering German

in my ear.

I start giggling,

cause that’s what I do when

I get nervous.

I ask Henry, “Why Johnnie, where did you

ever learn to speak German like that?”

“Channel 13,” he replies,

nibbling on my neck.

“How come you wanted me to join

you Johnnie, you already have

a date.”

“Because I just adore Irish women!

They are so feisty!”

So I tell him that my father is black

and my mother is KGB.

He lets out a shriek,

and his glasses

slide off his nose

and into his glass of vodka.

Ginger Spice returns in a cloud

of cheap perfume to find Henry

muttering, “But how can it be?

She is so fair?”

“Come on Johnnie! Let’s dance!”

And Ginger pulls Henry up

by his free hand.  And with

his other hand still handcuffed

to the attaché case,

they make their way

onto the dance floor.

Now’s my chance.

I make a beeline to the door,

race down the street,

hop a cab on the corner

telling the driver,

“Step on it!”


I’m never going back to that joint

again. I don’t care how hot

the sax player is.


Mary Shanley is a poet and activist who lives in New York City. She has been publishing poetry since 1984. The two poems included here originally appeared in her new book, Hobo Code Poems (Vox Pop, 2008,, and are reprinted here by permission of the author.


Latest Issue

2024: Vol. 23, No. 1

Latest Issue

2024: Vol. 23, No. 1