poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox


Recorded for Poem-a-Day, March 7, 2016.
About this Poem 

“Every spring, my neighborhood hosts a May Day festival in the park across the street from my apartment. I wrote this poem after spending a frustrating day, unable to access any joy, despite being surrounded by beauty of all kinds. I kept the bark mask anyway; it’s become one of my favorite possessions.”
—Gretchen Marquette

Song for the Festival

At the May Day parade, my mask made of moss
and bark, my hair full of flowers, my friend beside me,
her pretty red mouth under the hawk’s beak
of her mask of green sage.

At the children’s pageant, music
died in the speakers. The shadow
of a crow passed over. My hair a crown
of flowers, yellow and red roses large as fists,
flowers on which I’d spent my last $20
at the mercado.

But beauty wasn’t enough. Being admired
by strangers was not enough.

I saw a girl, wandering, looking for her mother.
I knelt down, lowered my mask, showed her
my face. She’s looking for you too, I say.
She tries to spot her mother’s yellow dress.
A gold dog passes, happy and white-faced,
wearing pink nylon fairy wings. The girl points
and laughs; the hard part of her day
is over.

The people I’m looking for—I don’t know where they are.
I don’t know the color of their clothing. From across the park
I see the dark windows of my apartment.

Spring has arrived.
Let me not despair.

Copyright © 2016 Gretchen Marquette. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2016 Gretchen Marquette. Used with permission of the author.

Gretchen Marquette

Gretchen Marquette

Gretchen Marquette is the author of May Day (Graywolf Press, 2016).