The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Marilyn McCabe’s “Perpetual Motion”


Root Systems

Bittersweet sucks at the apples,
and the rest wanders
hungry underground.
I see it the next street
over and the next, all
one great growth,
tree and fence, your house, mine.
And water too, doesn’t it
blanket the earth, a thirsty crust,
bonny coat all on and under?
Won’t this stream I splash through
become the sea we cruise
in great yachts, then muddy
waste of Madagascar marsh,
the turgid Sunderbans?
And it rises to cloud to fall
again across all time,
so these drops once held
the hand of a man dead
in the bloody Ardennes,
cupped the sturdy skin
-boat of Saint Patrick. Oh, man,
we’re never done with
each other and earth.
Take my tears for your tea.
Grind my teeth for your garden.
Let me feed your child’s child.
Let him suck
the bitter root sweet.

This selection comes from Marilyn McCabe’s book Perpetual Motion, available from The Word Works. Purchase your copy here!

Marilyn McCabe’s poem “On Hearing the Call to Prayer Over the Marcellus Shale on Easter Morning” was awarded A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Orlando Prize, fall 2012, and appeared in the Los Angeles Review. Her book of poetry Perpetual Motion was published by The Word Works in 2012 as the winner of the Hilary Tham Capitol Collection contest (available from Small Press Distribution, Her work has appeared in literary magazines such as Nimrod, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Painted Bride Quarterly, French translations and songs on Numero Cinq, and a video-poem on The Continental Review.  She blogs about writing and reading at

Marika von Zellen has a BA in English and Creative Writing from Cornell College (no, not the one in Ithaca). She’s had poetry and fiction published in Open Field, Temporary Infinity, The Grin City Monthly, and the anthology Rock & Roll Saved My Soul. As an Editorial Assistant for Sundress, she’s copy-edited the book Picture Dictionary (2014); as a freelance editor she copy-edited the photography book Face It (2013). In the summer of 2012, she attended the Grin City Collective Artist Residency in Iowa. Besides writing, she enjoys theoretical physics, playing piano, ghost-hunting, climbing trees, and drinking good Czech beer. She’s also a scholar of Lewis Carroll.

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