The war was all over my hands.
I held the war and I watched them
die in high-definition. I could watch
anyone die, but I looked away. Still,
I wore the war on my back. I put it
on every morning. I walked the dogs
and they too wore the war. The sky
overhead was clear or it was cloudy
or it rained or it snowed, and I was rarely
afraid of what would fall from it. I worried
about what to do with my car, or how
much I could send my great-aunt this month
and the next. I ate my hamburger, I ate
my pizza, I ate a salad or lentil soup,
and this too was the war.
At times I was able to forget that I
was on the wrong side of the war,
my money and my typing and sleeping
sound at night. I never learned how
to get free. I never learned how
not to have anyone’s blood
on my own soft hands.
Copyright © 2019 by Donika Kelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 25, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
You can only hear you look like a hooker so many times
before you become one. Spandex was really big
the year I stopped believing.
I babysat for the rabbi’s son, Isaac. There was luxe carpet
in every room of the condo. Isaac liked Legos
and we made a pasture and a patriarch and lots of wives.
In his car in his garage the rabbi handed me a self-help book
and put my hand on his crotch, ready to go.
I didn’t care.
I made good money.
Isaac lived to be 180 according to the bible.
Isaac is the only patriarch who didn’t have concubines.
Isaac is 30 now. Modern scholarship tells us
the patriarchs never existed. Experience taught me
the patriarchs are all we’ve got.
Copyright © 2019 by Lynn Melnick. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 8, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
From Cruel Futures. Copyright © 2018 by Carmen Giménez Smith. Used with the permission of City Lights Books.
Copyright © 1994 by Naomi Replansky. “An Inheritance” originally appeared in The Dangerous World: New and Selected Poems, 1934-1994 (Another Chicago Press, 1994). Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.
It was the market day
and I had rented a stile
by which I could number my patrons;
and a tree, so that I could plant something
living by my selling stand;
and a hefty snatch of my favorite black cloth
so that I could mimic mourning
and people might think that my husband had died
(which he had not).
But knowing that patrons
offered more money to women in black,
I pretended as such and left some of the coins
buried after I had packed up my stand.
I supposed that burying them
might make up for my pretending.
I had also to uproot the tree
and then take it back to my brother-in-law,
so there was already a great gaping hole in the ground.
Copyright © 2018 Katy Lederer. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.