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Jennifer Perrine

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2

Pica

This is how clay becomes flesh: dirt and grit
clumping with saliva, bits of sand wedged

between gum and tooth. In my mother’s mouth:
her palate alive with humus: a crush

of chalk threading down her throat: and somewhere
deep within her gut: a Galatea,

milk white, translucent: a creature she’ll bring
together from pulverized stone. She’s sure

all desire begins with me: my unborn,
indiscriminate taste, my unwieldy

appetite for handfuls of ash and soil:
and when I’m born, though she gives me a name

plain and utile as toothpaste, she insists
on calling me Magpie: and how she’s right:

when I’m first caught filling my cavernous
maw with paint chips, plaster, coffee grounds pulled

from the trash, my father reassures her:
this is the work of all infants: to hold

the world inside them, piece by piece: to turn
each sliver about on the tongue: a shape

in a tangram: a code the child’s mouth cracks.
But when my mother finds me, years later:

a toddler, plucking flies from the window:
the curse slithers out of her: freak: as though

she’s never enjoyed this comfort: as though
she doesn’t remember reaching for more.

A Theory of Violence

—after New Delhi, after Steubenville

Under the surface of this winter lake,
I can still hear him say you're on thin ice
now,
 my heel grabbed, dragged into the opaque
murk of moments—woman raped on a bus;

girl plunged into oblivion, taken
on a tour of coaches' homes, local bars,
backseats of cars, the sour godforsaken
expression on each classmate's face; the dark,

the common route home, faint footfalls behind.
How many times have I bloodied my fist
against this frozen expanse to remind
myself there is another side, hope-kissed,

full of breath? I howl. The water begs, drown,
its hand pressing tight, muffling every sound.