Feature > Poetry
Mary Jo Salter

Mary Jo Salter

Mary Jo Salter is the author of five books of poetry, including A Kiss in Space (1999), Open Shutters (2003), and A Phone Call to the Future (2008). Her second book, Unfinished Painting (1989) was a Lamont Selection for the most distinguished second volume of poetry published that year, Sunday Skaters (1994) was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and Open Shutters was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, she is currently a professor in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University.

Instrumental Riddles

Nothing to shake a stick at,
hollow inside, I'm anything but shallow.
The deeper I am, the louder
silence is struck a blow.
Love often looks like me—
two lovers, and then three—
although the third is rarely in plain view.
I play upstage. I can be quiet, too.
I live on a limited scale.
Homeless, I collapse and wheeze
on the subway. As if you care!
Sorry to be so sentimental,
but buddy, please,
can you spare a dime?
Otherwise you may have to bear
the polka, one more time.
Shaped much like an angel's wing,
like angel hair my lengths of string,
I'm strummed by angels as they sing.
In nursery school, before you learned to read,
you played like Pan upon a simple reed.
My name says what I do—
I bring your earliest memories back to you.


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