Betsy Mars

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Pedicure for My Father

I firmly gripped your foot,
trying not to bruise.
In the clipper’s jaws
your fungused nails crumbled
like chalk disintegrating
at the touch.
I did not recoil
as I might have, once.

You watched me, wary of disgust,
but you should know:
I’d rub them eagerly, like a lamp,
if I could only wish them back.

Dear Ashes of Charles

I wonder which part of you I have.
I’d like to believe it’s your heart –
although the heart must vaporize
in the process of cremation.
Love goes bone-deep: the ache
I feel when I imagine your neck.
Dear ashes of the hand I once held.
Dear ashes of your brow,
the blue pools beneath them turned to mist.
Dear hollow of nose, absence of skin.
Dear throat, vibrant with laughter.
Dear ashes of ribcage and hip bone,
and your beautiful skull – too heavy
to hold – now lightened and whitened,
scorched and shattered:
a pile of purity that once was you.

Jack Gets Dusty

Uncle Jack still exists
on magnetic tape;
the VHS no longer works.
I took him to a specialty shop
to have him transferred
to a modern format,
and he came back
with a hole in his middle,
but I don’t think he feels it –
not in his windowed envelope
on the fireplace –
gathering dust
until I can face his wry voice
and broad face again,
heavier in the brow,
but so much like my father’s.


Betsy Mars is a poet and educator who loves to travel, fights a tendency toward morbid thinking, and enjoys the company of her family and friends, some of whom are four-legged. Her work has recently appeared in Visual-Verse, Writing In A Woman’s Voice, and the California Quarterly.