His body, a throne
I bow down to―
He knows this: power
begins with knowing
you can beget the loaves
and the fishes from
your leftovers, that each miracle
is yours. He rips
the delicate lace of a silk slip
that once curtained
my mother’s slim hips, that
in four apartments, two
countries, three cities
with a level of care akin
to worship. It’s true
I let some animal desiccate
in the skillet and never
prayed for it. I deserve this
staggered violence of
digging into the apple skin
smooth of my belly,
the bruised fruit, the plunged―
sopped sheets and gasp.
In the morning I will admire
my starched and ironed lapel,
the smartly tailored waist,
the scarf draped expertly
around purpled collarbone,
the unworried line of
his brow, the alter I’ve made
in this image.
We have come to the Chanticleer to graze
among the graceless stutter
of neon-washed electronica, spastic metronome
of collegiate hips. I still harbor
the packman remains of a peach-pecan pie.
I have been thorough in my loving:
Real butter for the crust. I sampled a sliver
from each skinned globe
and only baked the best. We scoop
the mess out with our hands and lick
our palms clean. Each life line says
keep going. Our thick heels pestle
a paste of stray flakes and beer that sticks
bodies together like they’ve never knotted
the cheap veil of morning around a bedpost
and scurried home. Remember:
each slice is as good as the first. This is a mercy
we’ve earned: our mouths, our own.
POEM WITH PEARS IN IT
-After Robert Hass
Everything in the college cafeteria
is the fleshy color of canned pears
and so am I because it is winter.
Because it is winter and fresh fruit is impossible,
or at least too expensive,
I spoon canned pears into a blue plastic bowl
and guzzle the syrup straight from the can
like nobody raised me with any manners,
that’s what my mother would say,
and she’d be mostly right.
My mother would say, and she’d be mostly right,
that I am a beast. Sometimes I see Hannah with her shirt off
because we are roommates and sometimes it happens
and she has a pear tattooed on her side and sometimes
it happens that I am hungry and I’m not supposed to
put my mouth there because we are roommates.
Because we are roommates
in a time of fresh fruit
we share bites
from the same soft pear
and let the juice stick
to our bald chins
and say it is good.
Say it is good. Say it slides
good on you tongue.
Say soft. Say bites. Say
the juice sticks good
to your chin. Say it’s a pear.
My First Stab at Living a Double Life
Because we were too proud a family
for the free lunch program
and cheese and deli meat were too expensive
for daily sandwiches, each school night for a decade
I smeared PB&J over cheap wheat bread
and shoved it into a flimsy sandwich bag.
Because I knew real hunger
was when the loaves ran out
and there was almost always a loaf
of frozen bread in the deep freeze to unthaw,
I told the soon-to-be cheerleaders
who lived in subdivisions
with names like storybooks,
who mocked the constant sameness
and smallness of my lunch offerings,
that this blandness gumming
the roof of my mouth was my favorite,
that I could have their stupid meat
and crackers, their juice boxes
and pudding cups and fullness
if I willed it. For a month each girl
came to school carrying carefully cut
triangles of PB&J and bragged
hers was the best, and I knew
I could turn any nothing into want.
We Were Trying to Write a Love Story
but were we flailing on the bare, rough
mattress or failing? If to fail is to want
wilderness and achieve only small puddles
of salt—if to salt is what we do to wounds
to make them feel more wound-like,
then we must’ve been filling
our anatomies with stinging,
which was a failure at mercy,
which is a component of loving.
Did I hear him singing a blues
that bent August into a woman’s room
with no windows to cool the viscous night?
It must be possible to bend a woman
into a window. He must have tried
to jump out of me. He must have
tired his jumping muscles.
Could I have ever born him up
into the glad light of spring?
Do I mean born or raised and can you
raise a sad-boned man into anything
like light? If to find blood inside
a store-bought egg is to bear
sadness, if we were scared to eat it,
then aren’t we human, soaked
and salted and saved?
Forgive it All
At Macy’s on State Street, in the year
of the good paying office job, I selected
an armload of spring dresses to try on,
a present to myself for my birthday.
Forgive the salesclerk who told me
not to play dress-up with the merchandise
when I wasn’t going to buy any.
She couldn’t have been speaking to
my well-starched shirt collar and woolen
trousers. There must have been some
darting hustle left in my eyes. Forgive
me. I dropped the half-dozen dresses
on the floor in front of the fitting rooms
and stomped off muttering, I’ll take
my damn money somewhere with
manners. Forgive me for wanting
them so bad I went to the Macy’s
three Subway stops away where
the salesclerk didn’t mind the trash
in my bloodshot eyes and I wept
in the fitting room and bought
the most expensive frock. Forgive
the looming credit card balance
I should’ve paid down from years
with no dresses and tattered shoes.
There was a glad whimsy music
to that dress— the tiered
gingham skirt and crisscross
back—worth the stomping off,
the weeping, the reckless want.
Stevie Edwards currently resides in Ithaca, NY, where she is working toward completing an MFA in creative writing at Cornell University. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Good Grief, is from Write Bloody Publishing. She is the editor-in-chief of MUZZLE Magazine, editor of 4th & Verse Books, assistant editor of EPOCH, and a proud alumna of Chicago's Real Talk Avenue. Her work has appeared in several literary journals, including Rattle, Thieves Jargon, Union Station, Night Train, PANK, Word Riot, and decomP.
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