Mary Ricketson is inspired by nature and her work as a mental health counselor, has poetry published in Wild Goose Poetry Review, Future Cycle Press, Journal of Kentucky Studies, Lights in the Mountains, Echoes Across the Blue Ridge, Red Fox Run, It’s All Relative, Old Mountain Press, Whispers, Voices, and her chapbook I Hear the River Call my Name, and three full-length collections, Hanging Dog Creek, Shade and Shelter, Mississippi: The Story of Luke and Marian, Keeping in Place and Lira Poems of a Woodland Woman. Books are available from Mary, Amazon and local bookstores.
She writes a monthly column, Women to Women, for The Cherokee Scout. She is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and an organic blueberry farmer.
available from each Publisher or Amazon
Lira, Poems of a Woodland Woman, Redhawk Publishing, 2021
Lira was always alert,
kept her eyes and ears
ready for signs, signals,
sounds of life, awake
to ways of joy and laughter.
She had been married
to a dangerous life,
fled to the wild for peace
and safety in nature.
Like a goddess, Lira
had a devoted following.
Three deer, one red tailed hawk,
a ring tailed pheasant
and maybe a sleek red fox
walked the ground she worshiped,
kept as near as their wild selves allowed.
Magic, a spotted Labrador, tamed Lira
with his predictable presence,
persuaded her to trot his trails,
check out puddles and creeks,
join the routine of his day.
Magic grew attuned to Lira’s moves.
Black, white, red, and blue birds
scanned the skies. Bees and butterflies
spiced up summer like green sage
and honeysuckle gold.
Lira slept in the woods
like she belonged to the wild.
When a young bald eagle showed up
one sunny afternoon, Lira kept Magic
in her cabin, not to scare away that bird.
Keeping in Place, Finishing Line Press, 2021
Power of Pandemic
An unseen world
alters me, shifts and shakes
these weeks and weeks
I stay at home.
One pileated woodpecker
darts down the air, dares
me catch a glimpse of his beauty
black and red, before he’s gone.
One bored cow, pastured alone
to fatten, chews on a cardboard box,
stands all day behind two strands
of electric fence.
Now bluebird pairs fly free,
follow ploy, paths of instinct.
Well out of sight a female sits,
nests her young, and waits.
Away from here,
where the groceries are,
six feet bless the distance
between me and you.
I count the days
since I’ve been touched.
Mississippi, The Story of Luke and Marian, Kelsay Books, 2019
The Story of Luke and Marian
My daddy was loyal to his friend the salesman,
always went back up north to buy a Chevy
from his home town buddy.
Rolling down US 49, sizzling blacktop lined with pines,
hottest sun ever felt, July 1948, when I was a baby,
Luke and Marian, my mommy and daddy,
distracted us with jokes, stories
for me and two year-old Jimmy in the back.
Four days drive from Minnesota's
iron ore mines, icy lakes, memory of snow;
Mississippi's coast would soon be home,
the post WWII Air Force said so.
Hattiesburg, Wiggins, and on to Gulfport,
at last. Gas station ahead, Mommy brushed a stray hair,
dabbed a wash cloth to drops of sweat
on my face, then put on her white gloves.
Stirred up, all smiles for their first stop,
Daddy straightened his tie, pulled up to the gas station
and said Fill it up please, chatted with the white owner
while the blue shirted skinny Black man pumped gas
and cleaned the windshield.
How much do I owe the gentleman?
Daddy asked the White man with glasses
and pencil in his pocket.
Listen here, now, that stern voice warned, If you're going to live here,
understand this: No Colored man is a gentleman, and no Colored
woman is a lady. Don't ever forget.
The silent Black man stood at a distance,
looked away, pretended not to hear.
Shade and Shelter, Kelsay Books, 2018
Shade and Shelter
White Toes lies on the covered porch
of an empty house on a quiet corner.
Tired or weak, he does not speak
his story of escape from dog to dog
aggression, his own home a mile away.
What else happened two months ago?
My Midnight does not spar, does not play,
does not test the waters to connect.
She walks on by. White Toes shrinks into the edges.
Prayers for rain abound, beg for end
of summer’s long drought.
No language comforts this canine
who will not return to his pack.
Mysteries of misunderstandings collide
in my raucous thoughts.
Now two humans have turned from each other.
I cannot explain why I shrank away
but I have told him all I know.
The beech tree spreads its broad leafy arms,
welcome embrace of shade and shelter.
I fill plastic bowls with food and water,
set them down by White Toes on my way home.
Hanging Dog Creek, Future Cycle Press, 2014
Suddenly I remember
life is hard.
One walnut tree stands
at the end of my field.
Forty years I watch. It never wanders,
never moves, only sheds its leaves,
drops its weakest branches
when storms rage through the cove.
What is a woman,
but a tree who walks around?
Storms and seasons leave scars
on ripened beauty,
carve hearts in the bark
where mysteries of strength lie
in the eyes of each beholder.
No decision diverts the tree.
A tree does not worry about its fate.
I Hear the River Call my Name, Finishing Line Press, 2007
Out of Print
My body knew
before my mind
before my voice
Make peace with loss.
Make friends with change.
A candle flickers.
Blue light drowns
in its own flame.
of hope surrender.
Let me live
where crystal clear creeks
slither over small stones,
ripple over rugged rocks,
slide through the smooth,
and rain and tears are welcome
as sunlight and laughter.
Where birth and death
run the same river bed,
I run my life.
Disorgananza, privately published, 2000
Out of Print
I live in house disorgananza.
Alarm rings. I get up.
Places to go. Be on time.
No time to fuss. What is clean?
What suits the weather?
What is comfortable?
What size fits today?
In a flash I have it,
see it in my mind
a second cup of coffee
and feeding dogs and cats.
While brushing my teeth
I confirm the blue denim
jumper is clean and unwrinkled,
I need the right shirt. I know the one.
It’s not in the closet.
I dry my hair and think where.
I look in drawer number one
and drawer number two.
I look in the closet again.
I look in the drawer I forgot about.
I mess up the shirts that are not
the right shirts. I have no time
to fold them well again. I cannot
shut the drawers. I move along.
I see the clock. I look for socks
snd shoes, hoping to find
the right shirt in the wrong place.
I see the clock again.
I put on the wrong shirt
with the right jumper.
Off to work I go again
The Ritual of Tea
It starts with a thought,
choice of leaf,
choice of cup, steps to brew,
time to steep.
Sit, sip, taste, until
a familiar rhythm of well-being
stirs some sensuous element
into an ordinary moment.
Let the feeling steep.
Slow is the pace.
Quiet is the way,
last drop a final thought.
the end of tea time signals
start of a new hour.
Breath flows easy,
a particle of peace.
Mary Ricketson, 2016
published, Wild Goose Poetry Review
At the Ballet
Sun shines down the mountainside,
reflects eight foot icicles uphill from our trail,
makes a bee line for the tree line
on the mountain top across Woody Gap.
Tall trees with ragged branches rise
graceful as ballet dancers in second position.
Fallen trees, newly snapped or long decayed, conjure a sober mood.
We walk with extra care across the slickest path.
We know these trees by their bark:
hickory, white oak, red oak, poplar.
They speak to us like old friends.
Sapphire blue among striated clouds, the sky is the prize of the day.
Its mood is cold but familiar:
I’ll be here long after you leave, it says in reassuring language.
We pass a churchyard on our drive home,
eloquent statement of what remains after leaving.
Mary Ricketson, 2016
Published Wish You Were Here, Old Mtn Press 2016
Today my fear comes
in a covered dish
disguised with herbs and spices,
made palatable by bits of beef
braised in burgundy,
best features forward.
Starting to love this fear,
I name it Respect,
sprinkle with safety, trust, and hope,
place the casserole in a slow oven.
Fine cuisine, seasoned and cured,
quiets less welcome morsels
of shame and humility.
Integrity rises, meringues the surface,
tempts taste buds past tradition.
Mary Ricketson, 2016
Published, Whispers, April 2017
That tree house, small plank floor
close to the sky, was my home.
I didn’t sleep there, eat there,
or do my school work there.
I appeared to have a home eight blocks away,
along with others who shared my name.
Carrying my doll, all of her handmade clothes,
pretend supplies for an imaginary tea party,
I walked, alone or with one friend.
We climbed a rough trunk, hoisted legs over branches,
somersaulted onto an oak platform built by someone
a time before, a time forgotten
until my discovery. I could have landed on the moon
and not been more proud.
I think the sky was blue. I know the leaves were green
then gold. I remember it all was mine for a time.
Mary Ricketson, 2015
Published- It’s All Relative 2015
How to Rest in the Afternoon
Lie in a hammock
near the house, but away
Notice sunlight filtered
through leaves and branches
of dogwood. See bottoms
of droopy green leaves,
hidden, less than perfect,
hardly ever seen.
Listen to bluebirds, shallow breezes,
sounds of leaf meeting leaf.
Let the hammock rock
you into monotony,
drop your mind down to earth,
find a place where thoughts
have not yet formed.
Mary Ricketson, 2017
Published, Old Mountain Press, Fly With Me, 2017
A waning moon wiles behind the treetops
down toward Rose Creek, settling time
before the world wakes up.
Days grow short, air crisps, winter looms.
Tall Queen Anne’s lace and purple ironweed
grace the field in this darkness.
Here in my divine time,
floundering for a thread of peace
to hold all day long,
I wonder and wait.
What will expose itself when daylight shines?
Seeds of fortune fall by chance.
What will move in
to all the spaces left by falling leaves
and the one who walked away?
Mary Ricketson, 2015
Last buds last petals
of this knock out rose
sit pristine on tall rigid stems
green with thorns that could be nails
flanked by thin oval leaves that could be hand saws
toothed in intricate precision.
Red petals, whatever left in late September,
sit regal, as if the wind will not blow,
as if cold will not bite,
as if the sun will be its friend forever.
Let the breeze rustle up what it will.
I shake like the last leaf in the wind.
Published They Stood Alone, Old Mountain Press 2015