1. The Back Door
Your body is thin with muscle like an aging birch.
Slowly, I inch my larger self toward you;
I let myself be round like melons.
I slide into your presence
while you stand at the back door
smiling, proprietary, as if you know
you own me deep.
2. The Dinner Table
I could have let you die when you were born, you said,
clutching your wine.
I'm no Isaac; you no Abraham .
I slid back in my chair, settling the curves of my belly
safer in the fullness of my flesh, opening a little
at that candlelit table, where I waited
for you to strike.
We sat in that high, wide room,
windows open to cicadas' hum.
Your hands stroked a silver knife, hands
so strong they crease a baby when you rock it.
Looking at the flame, you said: I could have let you die of your disease;
my disease, my carapace, the skin that bound my breath,
no one would have blamed me.
But my body, my body, you kept it from me.
You kept it sterile, high
on the ceiling, off in a corner;
It�s not my flesh, but a thing I wear around
Like an unshed snake skin.
3. The Waiting Room
When Dr. Marcoe snapped the curtain open,
you flirted with him. I always knew
you had a thing for Marcoe.
I offered my small arm, a ruler's length of scale,
for his soft, scientific gaze
as you asked: Anything new, a cure?
On the ride home, closed in the car,
my body lay like a fly on the window pane.
I shriveled further into the skin
we never spoke about.
You begged me: Talk to me, Anne, talk to me!
I could not please you,
I could not make my arm,
my twelve square inches,
clean, soft, pretty.
You sat at the head of the table
like a great spider,
where for fifty years,
you've spun a net of linens, flowers, polished silver.
Looking through the great bay windows to the hawthorn tree,
you told the same damn stories.
When I was young, you said,the Klu Klux Klan
burnt crosses on our Court House lawn.
I saw a white hood in my boyfriend's house - but
we didn't make anything of it.
Weren't you afraid? I asked,
it was Indiana in the twenties; you were Catholics.
Oh no, no,you said, no...
I gave it up, turned to my brother:
Why wouldn't she have been afraid?
He smiled. She was a pretty girl, he said,
she knew they wouldn't hurt a pretty girl.
Your kisses have always been wet, Mother,
your mouth open, your mouth on mine, wet with love.
Should I take your body now,
thin as an old apple tree,
scars where breasts should be,
should I fondle you in my arms,
smooth my hands along your pelvic bone,
lick your pubic hair, still black and thick
in my imagination?
You are young there,
there in your inner lips.
My tongue sucks your mound.
I suckle your sexual self,
your lips, your juice.
your black hairs caught in my mouth.
If I make love to you at last,
will you let me go?
*Previously published in American
Writing: A magazine