Back to Issue Thirty-Two

Black Thumb


The dogwood was threatening
to swallow the whole garden’s light,

so I borrowed a chainsaw and gas.
Its last berries a memory of red, the fruit

bitter, tiny angry mangos in the mouth
of its killer. Nights my son chooses his father

to read him into silence, I practice not loving
anything. Less like learning than remembering.

As a child, I studied how to be a child.
I was given a doll to care for

but could never remember its name.
I left her face down everywhere.

She had her father’s eyes.
Each morning, she greeted me with a blankness

I chose to know as forgiveness.
There, there, I said and slapped her back.

There, there, I say to the tree trunk,
its pale O’s of accusal.

From his bedroom window, my son eyes me
holding the humming saw.

What I look like to him is a memory
only he is born to bear.



The End of September


How is it there for you? In the morning, fog—
fog so deep it swallows the hills like a secret
it’s afraid will break a beloved’s heart. I drive
through its spread though I can’t see ahead, the road
not a road but the promise of one. I haven’t died yet,
though even that in a way is another lie, if you’re counting.
Do I count? That bridge—its red tongue
singing fog songs, the looming trees lowing their gloom.
I live now inside a compromise, straddle states.
I learn the names of the local birds so I know
who I’m saying goodbye to. Whom,
I have your mouth say. Say when,
your conjured tongue tones. The fog renders
even this hand half-remembered,
half a thing inventing itself.


Autumn, or its approximate.
What season haven’t I known you in?
The season of barns yellowing like teeth,

season of the field turning to tares,
the season of erasers, season of chamisa,
seasons of recklessness and of reason.

You knew my white dress into the grass,
knew my bottlecap eyes. Time of the flat earth
against my back. Season of myths

and fellow rootlessness. Season of bars
named for men it’d be a joke
to trust. Season of the womb’s refusal,

of the fruitless want, streets
of leaves a testimony
to the beauty of giving up.


A friend’s child has a child, so what is this black dress for?
Depends on the shoes. Depends on the shade of red
my lips get licked to. I tart my cheeks with blackberries
like a good girl afraid to die. That’s a lie—
how can I be afraid of a guest I’ve invited over
so many times? Or it’s the berries I’ve said all wrong
because they sounded called for.
Had been told.
You didn’t say you wanted anything else.


I went to sleep a thunderstorm only to wake up a wife.


I wake up your wife,
spring from your fist and into her mouth.

She thinks my name is just the sound you make
when dinner disappoints.

I wake up her night bones.
The clock moon sounds its alarm.


Here is the hollow where the sages all dine.
My dress on the floor,
fruit in my mouth.


The lake was lipless so we fell inside.

Our bodies thrilled to the silence,
gilling. All the pictures on your arms

had looked like warnings on the land,
now they green to memory—

the fishwife on your bicep takes on my face.
I swallow your old name, a boat lost

to the sea inside me.


I turn an envelope in want of words.
I turn an obsolete globe.
The grocery store eye doesn’t see me
and so never opens the door. The hunger—
pyramids of fruit inside that will rot
unless I have them. There isn’t always time
to decide what is right, only what is not
dying. You told me a secret it turned out
everyone knew, a way of lying
by telling the truth. A truth, truth
a blue marble that rolls under the dryer,
that chokes the curious child. I have hated
my body enough to love anyone who wants it,
which wasn’t love at all but a dog
glorying in the not-kick.
The bonfire. The bar, the jukebox
grinding its tinned longing.


I show up to the party wearing only fog.

I show up to the fog party wearing only my woman suit,

the seams distressed.

I seam up wearing only show, a one-woman party.

I wear out into fog.

I am suitable, a woman show.

I fog through my seams, party-stressed and suited for onlyness.

Partly. Shown up.

Unfogged, I woman up.




Erin Adair-Hodges is the author of Let’s All Die Happy, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. A Bread Loaf-Rona Jaffe Foundation Scholar in Poetry, Sewanee-Claudia Emerson scholar, and winner of The Sewanee Review’s Allen Tate Prize and the Loraine Williams Prize from The Georgia Review, Erin has work appearing in Kenyon Review, Boulevard, Prairie Schooner, and more. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Central Missouri and the co-editor for Pleiades.

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