Back to Issue Thirty-Eight



I give my attacker a mustache, take it away. I give him
outsized hands, then feet. I put him in the dock. Is he looking
my direction? Bowing his head? How can I tell you? I’ve lost
the face. You’ll want details. If I gave him a knife, pressed
his thumb to the switch. If it was summer, my body
in tee shirt and shorts, blackberries crowding the road.
If I allow you my fear, my blood, my luck. I lived. How
will you tell the story? I’m shackling the tremendous
hands, leading him back to the dock. He stands,
big and orange, sweating in that jumpsuit. He’ll stand there
as long as it takes.





From her private room in detox,
my mother’s view is solid
philodendron. Fronds like green shields.
In the submarine light, we speak selectively—
Philip Roth, the sweet final films of Truffaut.
Today, I watch a beetle trundle up a fleshy stalk,
armored and unswerving. He’s straight out of her
delirium with his wicked little horns. My mother
wears a silver shamrock to ward off evil,
swallows whatever she’s given.
I never could protect her.
She eyes the beetle, raps twice on the glass.



Batterie de Cuisine


Keep your sorrow brief and your anger long

Some mothers understand that like a tasty stew,
anger takes patience. Before mine flambéed

the mattress and sheets, the soft pillow where my father lay
his lying head each night, she packed our lunches—

homemade cupcakes rigid with frosting, sandwiches
sliced just so—then kissed us out the door. To achieve

proper depth and complexity, my mother would sweat
the vegetables, dredge the meat. Baste

liberally with gin. Did I say she was a lady?
Imagine the training. The fires banked,

barely alive. I smell it still, that afternoon—
onions, bay, her blistering broth.


Cynthia White’s poems have appeared in Narrative, Massachusetts Review, ZYZZYVA, Grist and New Letters among others. She was a finalist for both Nimrod’s Pablo Neruda Prize and Slapering Hol’s 2021 Chapbook Contest. She lives in Santa Cruz, CA.

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