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Ross White

Ross White is the author of two chapbooks: The Polite Society (Unicorn Press, 2017) and How We Came Upon the Colony (Unicorn Press, 2014). White is the poetry editor of Four Way Review and the executive director of Bull City Press. He teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

By This Poet


From Money

my parents used the term from money         it meant a lineage
but I envisioned a woman emerging naked and fully formed

from sierras of unmarked bills            there was no derision
in the term but an understanding that she was not like us

she had not worked a day in her life          she had never worn mittens
with holes in them            her house had central heat instead of a wood stove

she knew how to shuck an oyster           always knew which fork
was appropriate            there was a lot we knew that she could not

but it was understood that these were Pandora kinds of knowledge
I asked if it was better to not have money           then have it but they said

it was more elegant to come from money            the nouveau riche
they said suffered from the one great affliction        a lack of manners

I said it doesn’t seem like the bad kind of suffering         they said
you’re too young to know what shame is            but you know I said

they argued behind the closed bedroom door once about a prostitute
I envisioned the prostitute             naked on sheets

of crisp hundred dollar bills             I understood even then that money
and sex were cousins            though the order of the transaction confused me

the art of the deal              how to get what you want
withhold whatever has value             my father kept secret

that he was starting another family              we could have
with a little detective work sleuthed it out               rule number one

follow the money              people will do terrible things to get it
my half brother was born               no—           he was practically minted

In 27D

After hours of delay
and a particularly long layover,

the voice promising me clear blue skies
sounds like I imagined God

would when he asked me to forgive.
And the stewardess

pushing a cart toward me,
with her smart, ruby lips,

thick eyelashes,
and unconventional snakeskin boots,

looks like I imagined Venus would
if she wagged a finger at me,

inviting me to something forbidden.
Michelangelo’s David,

on the cover of the in-flight magazine,
flexes the chest I thought I’d have

if I could work shame’s nine tails
across my back

enough to diet on grapes
or bike to the gym.

The housefly, the only one
I’ve ever seen on a plane,

caroming between seatbacks
like a fire drunk on its own heat,

looks like I imagined I might
if I died in a plane crash

and was immediately shuttled back
into the living body I deserve.

If I close my eyes and let the engine noise
drown out all this useless sense,

I can hear Venus as a heron
and see God as a never-ending chest

of drawers, each
one of the infinite shades of blue,

can feel the surprising litheness
of stretched snakeskin,

and smell brush burning
on the prairie,

and my next body is the wavering sunlight
through the surface of water.