Ellyn Lichvar is the managing editor of The Louisville Review. She also works on the staff of Spalding University’s low-residency MFA in Writing Program. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Whiskey Island, Parcel, The Journal, The Boiler Journal, Typo, and elsewhere.
I never got drunk much before you, he says and I pretend
it’s a compliment. I am the swirling amber in a glass held
so tightly his nailbeds become ghosts. Any harder
and his hand is a wet wound. I’ve gotten so good
at cleaning these messes I don’t get cut anymore.
The secret is to just keep breaking, to crunch until
the shards turn to dust and a damp cloth holds it.
The trash fills with the gritty cotton, bits of feelingless skin
like our mothers. I hold in words so long they become
rocks pressed deep in soil, calling out only
when the shovel strikes. Sometimes I pretend I am
not married, that this is a game, a good fuck on vacation
then back to work on Monday. To feel unwanted
is to swallow words like whiskey down until you can
sleep the night through. Chase it with something
that won’t choke, won’t slap you when you ask,
won’t lie silent while you touch yourself and wonder
if anyone else, anyone, is thinking of you. This is how
it will be if I stay: kids crying out all night, brown liquor
tongues feeling for each other in the dark until we die.
You’ve Been Doing It All Wrong
Sandwich a handful of grapes between
the flat bottoms of two saucers
and knife through the middle.
Half from half. Or cherry tomatoes.
Or a forest of aspen trees
if your hands are large enough,
perfect bark white like wax undone
across the grass. Whatever comes easy.
My mother learned you could
use a pillowcase to dust a ceiling fan—
slides right off, nothing dropped—
said it changed her life.
Last night asleep I gave birth
to a girl named Agnes. The doctors
stole her for three days before
I noticed I hadn’t touched her.
When it was time to go home, they asked
if they could watch her suckle me first.
Yes, of course yes—and then the lip
of the sun, like a father, a man
halved by this day, appeared
and reappeared before it left.