Editor's note: these poems originally appeared in the old/previous Luna Luna
In the Oven
Behind the deli counter
behind the man in white
the moon is dripping
fat like candlestick wax on the countryside below
(valley of flesh below). I ask him,
is that meat clean? like the silver dollar I polished
when I was four—drop and rattle—
in the metal horse's belly,
a slot up in its withers, the bank lodged in her ribs.
I’d stare in that void and wish myself in.
You see, I’ve been saving myself up
since I was young.
I’ll be clean like that, I say to the man,
the day my body is thin-gone
and can't feel anyone.
Florescent lights cleave
me in two I ask,
who is carving away legs arms heads
tissue stretched cartilage stripped of curdles?
feel nothing through no membrane?
Once I could feel everything
when I was young:
him ripping in
I wore my candy wrapper skin so tight
he used to take it off at night.
Bare bones clinking
Who could hear my squalling
over all that?
(she heard, I know she heard)
When boots hit the floor, my nerves ride
a scalpel (even now)
a scalpel cut around
the cyst cradled in my tendons
snapped when he arced
my wrists back like a rainbow.
He whispered, I’ll fuck you dead.
His thumbs found my throat
and choked me back into the rainbow.
She said, Go on, tell the doctor. You hurt yourself doing cartwheels.
The membrane glowed under surgical light.
Mucinous fluid made a full moon, an oven lamp,
that lit the room as I counted backwards:
I'll fuck you dead.
I want to say,
all that fat on the country's side, imagine it,
bright and brilliant slick
like an Easter ham, human faces
pressed on a window, what a generous night.
What a timely celebration of regeneration.
I want to say,
my cells will renew themselves, but girl, don’t
fool yourself. Tendons won’t knit
back together and neither will you.
There will be no cave for your bones
forever rising and falling for your bodily sacrifice.
And that’s not all.
Bodies picked clean. Bodies taking
all they can.
I want to say,
the body houses those memories too dangerous
for the brain. Shallow sparrow breaths rip
over bare nerves, sharp ghosts
through the muscles, bones, the pelvic bowl.
Save it for later—trap the pain. Wrap me up in cellophane.
My bones shook, shook clean, shook dirty-clean
I’m saving myself.
Cold turkeys stick bloody to their wrappers
and I want to say,
hours later, I dragged myself to the couch
and slept under the skylight moon.
I woke screaming in the early morning
thinking he was the silver greasing me.
Blood stuck me to the upholstery
so floral that no one would notice
the wound within wound without.
Only the morning light asks,
What happened here?
And only to be polite.
No, I’m not ordering anything, sir.
You don’t want to hear it, I know,
and I don’t want a thing.
I’m saving myself up
for all that country side, and all those ribs
turning over for our teeth.
I’m just one tray in the oven—
please, let me say I’m done.
Night and Night
We cut red apples in half to expose
their stars. If the seeds kept
their modesty, no nicks from our knives,
we were safe for that day.
We drank boiled tea berry tincture
collected from the woods behind
the house, growing beside the snake
berries that looked like sisters
full of poison with smaller, furry leaves.
We carried them in denim aprons
bulging with the summer scent of winter.
Our hair skimmed the waist
bands of our jeans, your hair yellow,
mine some bitter chestnut unfit to eat.
We changed our surnames to Night—
Your body was an elongated branch, silver.
I was gold silt beneath the river.
Your toes were straight and thin with long nails
that clawed me as you slept.
I stayed awake
to watch over us, sifting night
through my belly, remembering
what could happen
to little girls in darkness
and working at forgetting.
Sometimes, I told you what happened
so you gave me an “amulet,”
three plastic jewels melted
together with a tail like a comet,
for protection you pressed it into my palm.
You seemed glad to teach me to believe in something.
But when you left, he still came,
dragged me into his basement.
I clenched your magic into a diamond of pain.
In the summer, we ate Wise potato chips
in my basement, cool as a cave.
You pronounced them whiss even though
an owl winked from the bag.
I kept telling you, It’s wise. It’s
WISE, until you cried and I was glad
to teach you that only true things hurt.
Like when you cried before our bath
curled on the red chair over the heater,
repeating, He said I’d be good if it hadn’t been for Eve.
How could she damn us all?
I put my had on your naked shoulder
and said, Your father is an idiot.
I was glad to teach you that not all family
should be trusted.
In the boxy, white tub,
with the spout in my back,
we imagined our husbands
as we soaked with all the lights off—the shadows
were like water, rippling
by one candle burning on the sink.
We knew each other like the picking path
humming poison and cure for so long.
The woods were the only kitchen we wanted.
Even so, I said you’d marry into a mansion,
comfortable with his rectangular good
looks and opulence. I needed to bestow
obscene wealth upon you somehow.
Your whole house
would be cold, cream marble
and you would find a measurable happiness in that.
You looked skeptical.
When it was your turn to pick mine, you said,
You won’t marry. You expect too much of people.
That’s when I was sure you’d leave me
rotting in New Hampshire
because my body was an hourglass
built to age on a shelf beside an apple
with split seeds. Built to shatter
in someone’s angry hands.
Of all the men in the whole world
there’s got to be one who will respect me.
(I needed to believe in something.)
No, you shook your head. You want people to be good
when they never are and never have been.
I stood dripping from the tub.
The spout scraped my spine
all the way down, stirred the blood beneath
the skin like mud in a river bed.
Will we be friends when we’re old?
I wanted forever the first kind answer of the evening.
I don’t know. Your eyes were dull in the water,
and your mouth straight like a knife’s back. People change.
And you were glad to teach me.
You didn’t know it then
but when I handed you the towel,
I swore on your dead eyes
that night would always run through my guts
and after you were finished and changed
I’d ask a cut star to upend me so I’d know night again.
Gulls Calling over Corcaigh
I'm swept down Patrick Street too near Christmas
and rest my head on shoulders passing by—
alarmed passers-by cry out. Gulls cry out
over a river of salt. Gulls open their mouths and call.
I'm praying to be let out of the bell
that rings free and drink the night
by the spoonful like an oil for my health.
In another time when I was a child
in an American town,
the cornucopia sat on a plate
behind my eyes my world was embellishment
inside a panoramic sugar egg
and the frosting ducks were alive.
The cornucopia came out on holidays
and rested on the table where family extended
and fruits leaked their swollen cheeks
whenever they were touched, and dampness
ran down their arms.
(blood ran down their arms)
from their hands
and spilled their meal when they hit the floor.
(in the basement my blood on the floor)
I wedged between the cupboard
and the wall praying not to be found in the dining room
where I was told the cornucopia
would gather flies if it were left alone.
In the basement,
I was fruit
gather flies if left alone.
I prayed to Persephone bedtime stories
because father-god turned a blind eye
because mother-goddess was useless
because only incest in the Underworld she was told
eat the fruit.
That is the Order of Things.
In Corcaigh, I run into the mall bathrooms.
Salt burns my finger pads—there is heat
when I wash, wash, wash the skin.
Gulls crack their beaks and ejaculate.
(I am stranded in the city of marshes)
(I am a murdered child)
(I am the Goddess of Hell)
(I am not far enough away in Ireland)
The banner above Marks & Spenser’s says
The Holidays Are Coming
and people select food
fruit’s squeezed until it chokes bitten bleeds
I am praying to a half a dozen jewel-like seeds
I am for the ants to eat crawling in my throat
I am for the ants to eat surging in the body throat.
Holiday music wets the streets
and the rhythm of earth says the holidays are coming
to the ghost in my nerves says the holidays are coming
and manikins wear party red party dresses.
(I'm shaking shaking shaking all down the street
and people, a lot of people, are looking at me)
In the basement after the food
cleared from our plates
and I’d long been offered/forgotten in the basement
I am five years old I am wearing white
tights I am wearing white shoes
white lace dress
a fly bashes itself against the wall over and over and over
fills my brain with its psalm I am praying behind my eyes
frosting ducks nest on pomegranate beds
I refuse to see what will happen next
they shut the door tight my tights are white.
paint the gusset pain
red blood/red seed/red fruit red
family stains the gusset red.
White gulls gaping overhead.
Jessica Reidy is a mixed-Romani (Gypsy) heritage writer from New Hampshire. She earned her MFA in Fiction at Florida State University and a B.A. from Hollins University. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart, and has appeared in Narrative Magazine as Short Story of the Week, The Los Angeles Review, Arsenic Lobster, and other journals. She’s a staff-writer and Outreach Editor for Quail Bell Magazine, Managing Editor for VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts, and Art Editor for The Southeast Review. She also teaches creative writing, yoga, and sometimes dance. Jessica is currently working on her first novel set in post-WWII Paris about Coco Charbonneau, a half-Romani burlesque dancer and fortune teller of Zenith Circus, who becomes a Nazi hunter.