The Strangelove Ocean
The Mississippi is strange love
life buried deep under dead catfish
and the plastic handcuffs that hold
packs of Miller Lite in dozens.
Barges haul God knows what
upriver on their iron haunches
trailing oily, tar-scented scratches
in the groaning, greasing wake.
If I reach down I feel movement,
if I reach past the tacked hands
that touched my nubile breasts,
past my name echoing empty
in the house where I grew stunted,
where I learned to love a little smaller.
If only I can reach I feel mossy fins—
recoiling, but nevertheless alive.
When I was five someone gave me a peach.
He said Eat it. Go on. Because it tastes good.
Because if you do not I will push the slices
through your lips and hold your nose. Swallow
or choke. It’s your choice.
My literature professor brought a peach to class.
It’s important to talk about peaches, she said.
Smell the peach. Touch the peach. Feel the shape
of the peach in your hand. It’s important to know
peaches are real.
Oh yes, they all say. This is definitely a peach.
It’s a shame about peaches. This is how it is to eat
a peach. People who have been made to eat peaches
leave sticky fingerprints. Their breath is rotten sweet.
How tragic! – the peaches.
I want to hold the classroom peach easily, only
a little uncomfortable, and to say with confidence No.
This is how it is to eat a peach because I know. Instead
I roll the peach to those who do not know because they
do not taste when they touch.
My Grandmother’s Engagement Ring
Did she ever tell him she didn’t like pearls?
She wanted to be a vegetarian, but grilled burgers
on the George Foreman every Thursday night.
She wanted to hold her grandchildren a little
longer, with clenched fingers, through Sunday,
but First Baptist Church would miss its pianist.
She wanted one life split in two, a tart, sugared
grapefruit on a china plate. Instead—a fruit bowl,
a single, withered apple, brown and sweet-fuzzed
where unconfronted silence left shiny, bleeding
hickeys. Did she say yes because she liked pearls
or because she did not know to hope for diamonds?