Every weekend in January my neighbor put out a large printed sign that said “FREE” on the sidewalk in front of his house. Beneath it was a blue tarp piled high with mandarin oranges. Our block is a main thoroughfare for walkers and joggers, who often leaned over and took a few oranges as they went by. But it was almost comical, from my vantage point across the street, to see cars driving along, minding their own business, then suddenly jerk to the curb and screech to a halt. Doors would fling open and sometimes several people would pop out to scoop up armfuls of the fruit.
A glance at my neighbor’s house clearly yielded the source of his problem – a towering orange tree that was sagging with fruit. But my neighbor also used this bounty as an opportunity to give away other things as well; books, nicknacks, magazines, and spare parts were brought out from the bowels of his garage in boxes and plunked next to the bright orange lures.
Like many others, I went for the fruit but stayed for the boxes of free books and magazines.
In general, I was pretty good about saying “no” (you would understand how remarkable that was if you saw my bookshelves), but how could I say “no” to four issues of a mystery magazine, two from 1977 and two from 1978? Thus I acquired my first copies of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. The short stories were good, but the real surprise for me was when I found the mystery poetry!
I consider poetry “found” when it pops up in unexpected places. True, many literary magazines take both short fiction and poetry, but mystery isn’t a genre I often associated with poetry. That misconception has now been corrected!
Ellery Queen is still in publication (their website is here) and still accepts poetry submissions for “Detectiverse.” They are, in fact, the longest running mystery magazine in the world. I couldn’t find much information on the poet, Mark Grenier, other than his publications in Ellery Queen and Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (SciFi poetry too!). He was featured in a 2006 article in the Irish Times for conducting poetry workshops for patients at several Irish hospitals. (Side note: “Grenier” is a very poetic last name, it turns out – there are several other published and famous poets that share it.) So, the author of this mystery poem is mostly a mystery himself, for now…