Wise me is tonsil-deep on a very fine dick
when I stop and say, So:
before we go further I should tell you
about the fried ring bologna.
I should tell you I liked it
on white bread with margarine.
and this is not a come-up story,
I’d eat it now if my mom cooked it.
I ball up white bread
and roll it under my tongue
wash it down with redpop
or the juice from a can of fruit cocktail.
I still buy unnatural peanut butter
and fake maple syrup--
my dissertation didn’t work
to fix what happened to me
when I learned to love government cheese
that my mom ripped off
because we weren’t poor enough to need help
but Christ we needed so much help.
Maybe now I look good on paper
but I still pay my own debts
and work like there’s no net.
On Saturdays I want pizza and Bud Light,
and none of this is irony,
much less shame. I’m wise these days—
I won’t hide the ways I embarrass
my degrees, my colleagues.
I do truth early and I do it hard
so here’s what I need to tell you:
If I’m swallowing tonight,
know what goes in my mouth.
With boys I climbed
the chain link fence
around the football field.
What we were doing
What we were doing
was scaling a fence to break rules.
At the top I caught a wire.
The white line through my left nipple
has lasted 30 years, more,
so every time a lover lingered
every time I nursed my daughter
I heard the fence boys laughing
as I ran home clutching my left tit,
heard my mother sighing What the hell
because she couldn’t sew
and the shirt was not old
but ruined. A year later
she told me it was time for a bra.
I cried until I puked.
What I was doing
was being a girl, badly.
I am no more than 1/3 personal,
red-eyed and leaning to the left.
My apostrophes take a hard fall
by the end of the day, but check out
children, husbands, mothers in nice places
like pumpkin patches and memory.
I am no more than 1/3 book,
featuring maybe a tie-in,
some crafty swag no one asks men to make
that I can give away when I sell books at
tightly spaced readings across the region
where I will pretend to drink.
I am embarrassed to neither drink
nor be a drunk. I’d like to claim recovery
instead of fatigue. I am going personal
in my book fraction, I have gone over.
I am no more than 1/3 links to articles
related by theme to my book.
Simple, that one: All articles are deadly grief,
linked to furious sobbing, even the cat videos—
that cat is likely dead or at least nothing like it was. I am sorry.
Pictures are funerals. That is linked by theme.
I have sold myself.
Jessica Walsh is the author of the collection How to Break My Neck as well as two chapbooks. Her work can be found in RHINO, Tinderbox, Glass: A Poetry Journal, and more. She is a professor at a community college and the blog manager for Agape Editions.