She caught you just
as you emerged
from her operculum,
Gently she placed you
on her back,
your fragile body
with twelve sets of eyes,
held her breath
in book lungs as you
molted and hardened.
On days you’d climb down,
brought you back to her,
she’d lose sight of herself,
regret nights she craved
her life of solitude.
until the day you didn’t.
Rooted in the words to cut
is your name.
Did your mother’s mad
loving, her venom,
make you stronger
than you would have been
Boy, I’ve told you
how we begin
is not always
how we end.
In this fairytale cottage tucked into
an electric green mountain, circled by
snakes and every kind of biting thing,
she waits for him. The floors swept clean, cupboards
stocked with all that he loves, she clears spaces
for him to work, to heal. Cooking now, her
mind’s knowing hands finger whole chickens, rub
pimpled flesh clean in warm running water,
handle wings like the folded arms of babes—
the slippery, delicate chest recalling
nighttime baths. She chops crone-knuckled ginger,
onions, a fistful of flat-leafed parsley
and drops them into steaming cauldrons slick
with dumplings. Slitting fat eye roasts, she stabs
them with garlic, baptizes with chenin
blanc. Squash she juliennes into lovely
legs. A sparkling brut sweats in a bucket
as she remakes the bed, folds hospital
corners, plumps the pillows, imagines hands,
manly and once proud, cup her breasts, caress
her waist then beckon her to straddle him,
to rock her hips gently then not gently.
Her fingers count out days ahead. Are there
enough to bring him back to what he was?
In this sort of fairytale there are no
demons, no cannibal witches to aid.
There is only this familiar scene: a
good woman setting right what is broken.
Leona Sevick is the 2017 Press 53 Poetry Award Winner for her first full-length book of poems, Lion Brothers. Her recent work appears in Orion, Birmingham Poetry Review, and Blackbird. Her work also appears in The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks. Sevick was named a 2019 Walter E. Dakin Fellow and a 2018 Tennessee Williams Scholar for the Sewanee Writers' Conference. She serves as poetry reader for Los Angeles Review and advisory board member of the Furious Flower Black Poetry Center. She is professor of English at Bridgewater College in Virginia, where she teaches Asian American literature.
Neil Rick is a gardener and photographer in Tennessee. He grows flowers and then photographs them, overlaying the photos but doing no post-production altering. His images have won multiple prizes at American Rose Society Meetings in Tennessee and Kentucky, including Best Novice at a national ARS meeting in 2019 and "King of Photography" at a 2022 show in Bowling Green, KY.