Devil’s Proverbs · Mary Birnbaum

  You can say a forbidden Word.
You can knot your hand like a rope.
  You can find a place to be hard and fast,
when the terrible wind blows through you.

  You can buy a second-hand soul.
You can simply point.
  You can multiply yourself.
You can make another man’s face melt in your mirror.

  You can find unseeing in silver.
You can hang clothes from a line.
  You can hang clothes from a tree,
the tree still living.

  You can raise a man like a flag
who will not awaken. You can find unseeing.
  You can worship the lie. I
simply point. The rope tightens your heart.


Mary Birnbaum was born, raised and educated in New York City. She has studied poetry at the Joiner Institute in UMass, Boston. Mary’s translation of the Haitian poet Felix Morriseau-Leroy has been published in the anthology Into English (Graywolf Press). Her work is forthcoming in J Journal. She hosts a reading series with the Jamaica Pond Poets in Massachusetts.