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Midwestern air is honey clots
& red dust & great swooping birds
that block the sun, creak like closing doors.
In early December, my mother makes tart
from apple skin & the sloppy insides of wooden cacti,
boils stems in salted water, shaves dead trees.
The tart is burned every year. Clockwork.
The audience applauds.
Auburn, Indiana is berry blonde children
with moth hole teeth, hand-washed
laundry tied between trailers, husky cornfields,
concave barns, sky
blue of frozen lakes, hot breathe in 27,
skating on clear ice. A boy makes a promise
in a red pick up truck. A girl lets him pull her apart,
like onion skin. The audience thinks:
This must be the coldest winter this county has seen in decades.
In early December, gravel frosts over,
pharmacies are looted, girls like me don’t have much
to say. Mothers make tart, remember midwestern
air, peel sweet cacti, undress corn. Wait.
Creak like closing doors. Applause.
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After, my skin sagged low, a winter coat
on a pretty blue wire hanger. Abortions don’t hurt.
What hurt is the after, my mother’s coyote stare,
the red flush of my skin, the way Brooklyn bit back.
What hurt is the dirty mirror in the clinic bathroom,
the raccoon eyes, the silence of November. I did not
feel my body for two thousand days, called diners
out of state, ordered food for made up people.
I don’t like my lips anymore.
My mother’s hand a wrench around my wrist,
mean coyote eyes, forced me to stare at the sun.
I don’t like thinking about raspberries or peas
or any small, small things.
I don’t like to let down my long hair,
leave it braided, a rope to keep me attached to shore.
I leave rabbit ears on library shelves, call made up people
out of state, touch my arms but feel the inside of my thigh.
There is a grave of elephant bones in my body.
I have phantom limbs, like the soldiers who tasted napalm
in airplane peanuts, the wives who drop diamonds
in the garbage disposal after the funeral,
the mothers who lose children
in freak accidents on Ferris Wheels,
in pale blue draft cards, in clinics in Brooklyn
with smudged bathroom mirrors and dead
pink fish rotting in the sink.
Gypsy girls with bangles of fool’s gold
and tears of stained glass,
we watch you glow, blur,
a mirage by the train steps,
all molten bronze lips and moth
hole teeth. Love has a way of burrowing
into your arms, rotting yellow purple
bruise. Your fingers shake December.
Barcelona does not remember to call you back. Gypsy girls,
with dead fathers buried
between the roots of Georgia peaches, with mothers who sink
under the names of cities they’ll never go.
Gypsy girls with sprained tie dye
wrists and the reflections of dirty mirrors.
You have infants left in fire stations
and graves dug thirty years too soon. You breathe
too slowly and cry in supermarket bathrooms,
cry stained glass, hope for doves,
pull skinned rabbits from the hat instead.
The women of my family have tucked themselves away for generations.
Here is the difference between a man and a woman: my mother cried after my father left.
Here is the difference between a river and a stone: the stone cannot change.
We opened kitchen drawers, threw out matches. Opened closets, threw out lighters. Opened mouths, burned tongues.
My mother taught me to smile without teeth. She learned it from her mother who learned it from her mother who’s husband smacked her so hard she swore her daughters would feel it years later.
They do, great-grandmother, they do.
The night my father left, I strung my voice from the cabinets to the broom bristles to the air behind the stove, heavy with cooled heat.
My mother pulled herself from the furniture and tore apart my father’s pear tree, branch by branch.
I look at the spindly trunk and pray for all the things we leave behind.
You’re a ghost town, blotted
skin, pink lemonade cheeks.
If we were cities,
your streets would house children
who collect empty gift cards
and wrap the threads
of their age around them
We are a zodiac: I was born
in the year of the rabbit
and you, of course, are a snake.
Moths hibernate in my throat
and there will holes in my voice
I think I am leaking-
A woman pours her heart into a bowl
and feeds it to her cat. The heart
becomes a liquid thing- like heat,
but not so shocking red,
like my mother’s lipstick, like the first drop
of blood, like the tone of a poem
written all wrong.
Sometimes I look at people I don’t know
and think “I could love you”. My ribs tremble
with survivor’s guilt, and the branches of my
wrists spell out my future.
I think I am leaking-
and this is the sound of fragility.
We are capable of kissing
bruises and watching mothers cry
over lost children, who are not actually lost,
under the kitchen sink,
or in the upstairs closet, or in the concave
that is the human heart,
plucking ribcage songs.
theme by: heloísa teixeira