Diagrammer of Sentences 


In the corner of the living room,

huddled over my pink wooden desk,

brothers fighting, mother angry

because I’m not peeling potatoes,

I’m wandering in English homework —


Find the stately subject

a proper start.

What am I—subject or object?

Find the predicate,

its leaping, chaotic verb.


Seven of us crammed close

in that small house, bracing against          

winter winds, luminous ice tricks.


Modify, shape, change.

Could words change my family?

There is language here.

Celtic roots, English derivations,

West Seventh slang.


My mother first gave me words. 

But now when I write my own spells

she reads my journal,

destroys my grave, erotic notes.


Wind bangs against the house

in conditional tense.

Cold sets in our pavid bones.

My mother, argus-eyed,

worries scribble her face,

loneliness, a cave in both of us.


I want, I pray, I think—

How to parse

a labyrinth of longing?


I take my pen and diagram

a live tree, a sideways tree,

a sentence all my own.


I lived another time,                  

in a deep world beyond myself.

I will live there again.


Artist Justin Hedstrom



Diagrammer of Sentences by Mary Rummel won fifth place in Saint Paul Almanac’s Break Through Writing Contest in the category of poetry.

Mary Kay Rummel ’s ninth poetry book, Nocturnes: Between Flesh and Stone, has been recently published by Blue Light Press of San Francisco. Her first book, This Body She’s Entered, won a Minnesota Voices Award from New Rivers Press. The Lifeline Trembles won the Blue Light Award from Blue Light Press and Love in the End was a chapbook award winner from Bright Hill Press. Many of her poems have appeared in St. Paul Almanac. Mary Kay has read her poems in many venues in the US, England and Ireland. She was born in St. Paul and grew up in the West Seventh neighborhood. She lives, now, in Fridley and is retired from UMD. She is also Poet Laureate emerita of Ventura County, CA and spends part of each year with family in California.

Posted in: Poetry