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Laressa Dickey

My, my

My, my

women, my women
& in the baby-shower photo
you are the trio of calm—
the punchbowl cover
of mama’s fat belly.

Empty tea cupped saucers
small mirrors
a grandmother’s napkin
fraught with lipstick prints

Beside the bowl
a vested mother-in-law
stares. Thinking, no doubt,
of the garden
or her collected porcelain shoes.




I want to bust my head against the wall, here.
Forget pressures
of the punchbowl womb,
these duties—
mothering, fathering—
what do we do when we love?

And what is that big-boned,
foul-mouthed imprint you women—
my women—have left on me?
Why have you asked me to carry these hands on my back?

Is my life mine to take?
Is the color of your eye a shroud over my heart?




I cannot comment
on your gagged silence, your masochistic grins.
Throw my body in the bowl
& drink me in.




You do not speak of these ashes,
this surly dust. Your bodies no servant
to anyone now, no gravemaster,
no talcum powder buttocks,
no anything that is not quiet.

Do you hear me? Now, your hand
is my head against this brick.
These are your fingers
crossing my thin wrist.




My woolen shroud,
my drooping bones.
Who will woo a firelight soul?
What night swims in the sinking of our desire?




Give us ten minutes
& a crescent wrench,
just wait a while boys—
watch this practical body
wrap veinless arms
around a newborn girl-child.
Instead of curtains & veils—
a piece of cut glass,
the cup,
a threshing floor.




Wrap me in the afghan
you knitted
with blood vessels.




One ringed hand, the rest hidden.
A clockwork of plunder in three brains.

and how was your day dear, speak up dear
and how do you like your cornbread
and take off your pants so I can mend them




From my nose to my ear
there are four lifetimes.
A wealth of viper tongues,
bags of maggot-filled flour,
a landfill bulging with rusted tin cans,
sacks of blistered feet.




Beside the punchbowl,
half a maple table exposed—
a slit where mama
threw the knife at daddy
& missed—
covered now, for the guests.

You can’t see my cousins,
my aunts who crowd
around the gifts: the first onesie,
the plastic Tweety-Bird in a blue box.

You won’t see my father,
my grandfathers, boy cousins.
Don’t look for them.

Notice the women.
You notice the women.




A broad stream,
drink from my mother’s mouth
fine white cake,
and pus—
milky pus underneath.




Have I gorged on my mother’s blood?
Have I forgotten table manners?
A T-square to measure the space
inside my mother’s heart?

And my mother’s heart
inside her mother’s heart
and my heart inside theirs?

Don’t give me my father’s tools.
Give me a slender foot,
my own palm. Give me
the edge of my sheer eye
& plenty of spit.

What is the circumference of the sound of this cavern?




O my mothers, speak.
Don’t wait until you find
your mealy bones,
your truest lover.

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Laressa Dickey is a writer based in Berlin. She's the author of several chapbooks including A Piece of Information About His Invisibility and apparatus for manufacturing sunset, as well as the poetry collections Bottomland and Roam (both from Shearsman Books). Another book is forthcoming: Twang (Backwaters Press) in Summer 2017. 

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