Back to Issue Thirty-Four

Your Damage


Some days the lake eats your face. Some days the car eats the key. Other days you deposit ten minutes of sob into a trash can. Your childhood home will not be yours again. You won’t walk out of those woods you wish you never entered. Much of your early adulthood, and mine, was coming up with innovative ways to vomit, and then innovative ways not to vomit. My roommate holds my face steady, pushes the earplug in with a flick, like fake eyelashes. Fans my waterlogged childhood books on the fire escape, pausing to flip through the one with owls in tight sweaters. I’m in a striped cotton dress without shoes or a bra. Maybe it’s evening. Tankard of Pedialyte. Ghost cat stepping across my chest. Everything inside burns. You have to remember this was back when we had to take cabs, so we take a cab. My roommate tells me the bangle bracelet is a Sea-Band. Puts a wig over my hair and an all-day sucker in my hand, like going to a rave. Jams my heels into heels. Drags my heels into the cab. When we reach my childhood home, which probably looks very much like yours, we realize we brought nothing to throw. So I throw my voice around every tree, into the chimney my father built, across the yard where my ghost dog still ghosts.



A Gentle Reminder


Once I figured out the coat was filled with feathers I couldn’t stop
thinking about it. Slid myself into a bright pond to reverse the burn.

Slipped a dental instrument into my pocket for later, ripping just
a peek of a hole, enough to get a sniff of feathers or a cheek-wisp.

I woke strikingly aware of my skeleton and how it was not at rest.
As I slept it pretended to sleep but really left and watched the moon

from our lawn like a restless neighbor. For the New Year, I vowed
I would cease sleeping on my arms. They were mad, and so was I.

Everything kept kicking me over as I crouched. Even the feathers
held a smell that didn’t belong to me or to the house: like eye drops

with a hint of melon rind. Typically I was a fine storyteller, yet now
hardly anyone stuck around long enough for a coffin to creak open.

When I plugged my nose I swore I heard the feathers next to bones
but seams were still intact, the zipper gleam a railway to my chin.



I Found Your Diary and It Was Blank


Things were supposed to get settled
like one nest into another nest,
one account licking the cheek of another
then disappearing for good.
One shoe plummeting into the canal as
its mate remained heel-stuck,
a customer dropping a laminated
menu the moment the last lobster fled
its tank for a sewer, some woman
in her bathtub awaiting a blindfold.
Noise in a perforated sheet of electronic
drumbeat, a figure spinning in fringe,
three people dressed in fake regalia
weeping. Settled like a camera that did
not make people feel sticky,
one branch exacting a scratch like
a crowd of fingernails. How did my
arm taste? Was it like slapping a book
open or dropping treasured photos
into a soup terrine, was it encrypted,
bird-burdened, hastened by concepts
imagined in lab coats? Or settled
like a forgettable character invented
out of spite or misunderstanding,
like some hybrid fruit that looks fresh
only in its baroque plastic trap.

Mary Biddinger‘s newest poetry collection is Partial Genius (Black Lawrence Press, 2019). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Court Green, Poetry, Southern Indiana Review, and Sugar House Review. She has received awards from the Ohio Arts Council, NEA, and Cleveland Arts Prize. Biddinger lives in Akron, Ohio, where she edits the Akron Series in Poetry at the University of Akron Press.

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