—Edgar Allan Poe
Some women suffer, catch their breath, go on breathing.
Some women labor only a hollow gourd, then stop
Breathing. Some women rise from the stained mattress,
Leave the house behind, walk shiftless until their soles
Blister. Some women pilgrim to sanctuaires à répit, rest
Their rotting corpses on shrines under a medieval sun.
Some women wait for a bead of urine, an eyelash flutter,
The skin’s fade from waxen blue to white. Some women break
Storm clouds, let the rain cry the length of the panes.
A plague on that house and that house. Why not this house?
Some women bury their secrets beneath a blanket of river,
Watch the baptismal waters churn. Some women swallow
Their tongues, taste the blood twinge with that irrevocable bite.
A house wren rests on the white sleeve of a sycamore not unlike this house-
wife amid her morning ritual. Except this place is no longer my home and here
I am no wife. In the passing dawns, through the drifting brume, we regard each
other as if across a kitchen table. She’s perched atop the floral painted nest box
I nailed to the fence-post. Last summer, following the second breeding, she left
that hole; this spring she staked claim to the front porch railing. After a rainstorm
subsided I poured a glass of Bordeaux, watched as she pecked a tree swallow
to near death a few feet from my wicker chair. The defeated bird flapped forward,
one wing pitched slightly higher than the other, paused a moment before she caught
her harmony. Cerulean feathers flitted in her wake: across the yard to the shelter
of trees, then beyond the tree line, woodland, deep enough to swallow any shadow.
I knew she was the same wren, returned. Some say leaving is a lifelong process.
No point asking why a woman stays. Head tilted, she studies me as if to confirm:
We are Midwestern by choice. We have black walnuts in our blood. We have moss-
laced rocks beneath our soles. For one moment we align as equals, every creature:
rooted, winged, broken, unconscious, clawing. Perhaps it has always been
this way, except we worry about the daily trifles of putting on and taking
off and stitching holes we accumulate in the process. The wren soon shifts
her attention back to the stalks of peppermint invading the front beds,
appreciating how victory dies in the face of hunger. I’ve lived long enough
to recognize when we must question what we see: when everything we thought
had been questioned by those who built the binary systems dissipates
like last night’s fog. Then one morning seven speckled orbs rest in her roost.
In Scripture, seven—the symbol of completeness, perfection. Seven sacred
feasts of Israel. She’s added spider egg sacs, meshed cottony cocoons mid tangled
coarse twigs with grass, feathers, pine needles. She leaves only to feed, drops
curls of cabbage moth caterpillars to six gulfs until they want more than she can
suffer. I move to her corner of the porch; she dives at my head, circles
a wide parameter, dives again. I devour her shrill melody. Admire the grit.
Her familiar hope to hitch this intruder’s attention with sharp wind-borne trills.
When she fails to sate their desire, one by one they forsake her. How insignificant
my possessions compared with what she teaches: How to starve. How to lure
death away with archaic song. How to take flight, without permission.
I do not think she will return. Alone, I watch a myriad of spiderlings
swarm her abandoned home, consume the final—faultless—bedded shell.
Oro Belle Saloon, Arizona, 1904
Pocked moon went milky blue.
Wick is spent. Oil long dry.
Come inside. Closer. I’ll strike flint to tinder.
No one to hear except the mule
And the ghosts and me, but if your fingers
Feel the cold keys, the piano’s tune
Strikes without deference to our dark.
The dead don’t dance.
Some sit outside the window, tap
Their feet out of rhythm. Others shake
You from your drunken stupor. As habit,
I wake each morning, still
In this body, forsaken
Same as the wagon trails that hairpin these hills.
Follow me. Stair creak reminds you
The dead don’t shiver
On nights like ours. The harrows
Of the damned freeze the veins gold.
A Confederate soldier left me
This gunboat quilt. You can trace
The broderie perse, appreciate
The skills of desperate women.
I imagine you
Came to inspect what was left
The dead don’t covet
Gilt like the breathing. I promise you
Know nothing of fear.
Fear veins, lightening
Flowers on rock face. Fear waves
Of thunder. Fear hungers. Fear desires, appetites
The dead don’t worship.
My god, refined by fire, you shall be
My fatted calf. At your cloven feet, I will
Feast. I will spin and flit beneath
The horns of your headdress.
That tongue the shimmer from your skin—
The dust to which we return.
“In death . . . they have become apparitions.”
– “Wave of Violence Swallows More Women in Juarez,” New York Times, June 23, 2012
I.The routine: rows
Upon rows, women bent
Over the endless
Conveyor belts, churning
Spools strung like stars
To the florescent-striped heaven.
Hook after hook, the needle
Pierces the worked
Cloth faster than a finger can
Move from beneath it.
You soon forget
The mouth under your white filter,
The disposable masks.
Check for menstruation
Each month, stamp their own
Proof of purchase:
A swift right-handed
Blow to the gut. If you’re
Lucky they deliver
Their verdict at the end
Of your shift, daybreak.
The Mexican sun
Flowers blossom, tiny fists
Punching through dirt packed
Hard as pavement.
I cradle my stomach on the bus
Ride home, past the spread
Legs of Juarez’s La Equis.
II.Miss Piggy squeaks hello.
I’ve sewn her ears
A thousand times.
Miss Piggy wants to eat
Me for dinner.
Her newly-stuffed fingers unclasp
The thousand silver buttons
I fastened that hour.
Her toy platoon breaks
The assembly line, rips
Tulle shirts from their identical frames.
In unison, they pull fingertip
After fingertip: purple satin gloves
Slip to the floor,
Pile to the ceiling.
Miss Piggy wants me
She throws her wigs across
The plant. A mountain of blonde
Curls tangle in the corner.
Miss Piggy stares at me.
She cannot blink.
She is perfectly priced.
Miss Piggy squeals goodbye.
Good / buy
Echoes a thousand times
Across the American border.
Miss Piggy is plush and pink,
Naked bodies heaped
On this single soul.
III.You who knew a thousand deaths
As no reason for silence
Visit me at night: Ni una mas.
Ni una mas. Ni una mas.—
Dare me to follow you
Downtown, dance to the forced
Rhymes of dead female
Poets in our red lace
Dresses and monochrome
You etch a spider
Web across my powdered brow.
Black petals bloom from my irises.
You sew my mouth shut, a black cross
Stitch penned down my lips.
I thought we were playing
A game. Why no
Mirrors in this fun house?
You pinch me.
I don’t wake, I can’t
Scream. I pinch you,
I am alone in this dream.
What good is poetry?—
When the Chihuahuan desert dry
Heaves women’s torsos, the blue
Factory-issued smocks still double
Knotted around their lean hips.
What good?—When gone
Their nipples, gone
Their tongues, their eyes, gone
Their bare feet, their hands
That only last week whip
Stitched ivory leather
Totes with royalin leather piping.
What good?—Ni una mas.—
Wake. Wake. Wake.
The machines must be fed.
Woman Committing Seppuku
— Jack Seward’s Hara-Kiri: Japanese Ritual Suicide, 1968
woman is designed for death
did you expect a virgin’s
perhaps my signature
finger-scratched in carmine
you would not be so apt to let
if each moon
your own slipped
dark and healthy
between the thighs
an eager offering on moss
woman learns young
her bodyto embody
and when necessary
her internal battle yields
can swallow its own flesh
cud its share
spit out the remains
then the blade
let me show you how
respect is gained
for a man
he has only to carve out
the wound he forgot
I bleed white
camellias until white
camellias blossom white
Jessica Glover received her Ph.D. in English from Oklahoma State University and her MA and BA from Missouri State University. Her latest work has appeared in Indiana Review, American Literary Review, Aesthetica, Magma Poetry, Reed Magazine, Spillway, So to Speak, and MuseWrite’s Shifts: An Anthology of Women’s Growth Through Change. She was also the recipient of the 2013 Rash Awards and the 2013 Edwin Markham Prize for Poetry. In addition to teaching online courses for OSU’s Gender and Women’s Studies program, she teaches full-time at a men’s penitentiary in Missouri.