paper • 68 pages • 14.95
ISBN-13: 978-1-884800-53-5

Immaculate Fuel

Mary Jane Nealon




“I dream of an ideal confessor to tell everything to,spill it all:

I dream of a blasé saint.” — E. M. Cioran


I don’t discuss impure thoughts and acts.

I want forgiveness for small abandonments:

my brother left alone after surgery to tie his own shoes.

My saint, apathetic, sits on a rock near me,

his gown falls between worn knees. He yawns,

he’s seen worse: men drawn and quartered, women

burned at the stake. And then I leave him, even.


Infidelity, a gift I learn well.

I cheat on myself with myself,

confess my mixed emotions for the human body,

for the way I stand by and watch things happen.

For invasions, large and small: thin needles, chest tubes.

I watch primitive rituals and call them science.

I search the faces of the dead for answers—

Where have they gone to? Why are they cold?


My saint, meanwhile, signals me.

It’s easy at the bedside of the suffering.

I’m good at what I do. But my sin is this:

I use the dying to understand where my brother has gone.

Each time I touch them I am studying their bodies

for clues. And the little prayers I say are always for myself.

Praise by Sandra Alcosser

“What holds a reader and keeps that reader returning to the poems of Mary Jane Nealon is the keen-edged and tensile strength of her compassion. At once longing to be priest, saint, caregiver, to become the lake that holds and suspends her, she is never far from a woman who wishes only to discover a way to lay my hand/on the spinning blade of a heart. Walt Whitman’s genius found its path as Whitman attended wounded soldiers of the Civil War, and Nealon, as a traveling nurse and poet, becomes an attendant as well, beside the beds of train jumpers, transients, streetwalkers, and police captains. Her vision is telescopic, sliding in and out, overlapping, allowing the polyphony of voices to unfold and become fully articulated. Dialogic, kaleidoscopic, her mirrors reflect intense layers of culture, of love and family, of hope and collapse. I’ll be missed and will have to huddle with all says a thirteen-year-old narrator in the opening poem, as she stands in the rain, poised between the mundane and the extraordinary, watching for a landing of her own distant species on the moon.” —Sandra Alcosser