Alex O'Neal CC
In some things we are proof
against our own hands; people
can’t tickle themselves, for one.
You either prod another body
for its hidden release, the trigger
that undoes composure, or
you’re the one with skittish skin,
with flesh goaded by caress. I must
have believed loss was the same.
I must have thought fates never
panicked. I didn’t know, then,
that grief’s architects are fair game
for becoming its bereft. You ask
how I broke my fingers. Easy:
I snatched joy from my own grasp.
A girl who loves wolves, when her father leaves,
howls after his truck turning the corner. My son
comes home for his mittens when she asks him
to hold the toad she finds. Together these kids
jump and crumple on a trampoline, together
admire the fuschia dripping quinceañera gowns.
We need our courage for different things. I use mine
to talk with the other mothers: the wolf-tamer,
elegant in overalls; the beauty with a sunroom
sewing-machine; a goddess who back-slaps
a grape from her baby’s gasp, honeycomb inked
up her arms. We stand in each other’s driveways
some dusks, withstanding bees drawn to wine
and popsicle. I do not know whether the others
would call it brave, but sometimes we stay
until dark, withstanding the kids’ abandon,
steeled for their shrills of glee or broken skin.
Jane Zwart's poems have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, Threepenny Review, TriQuarterly, and Ploughshares, as well as other journals and magazines.
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