TWO BY TANIA ROCHELLE
FEEDING THE WORMS
You think this is going
to be a poem about death,
but it's really about being hungry all the time.
It's about craving sweets, even though I don't ear sugar
because of my past history of killing off
pound-bags of candy corn and wedding cookies
so I could puke them up like childhood shame
before my daily descent into a bottle.
It's about having kids when I knew better--three,
with a man who vanished into his creole spices,
polished silver, jazz ringing the glassware,
and the slick smiles of young women ready to serve.
It's about a chafing cat-lick of a marriage
that eventually rubbed me raw, and the divorce,
a bad disease that started as a rash,
and later, a man who kisses me like I'm clean,
like there is nowhere else he wants to go.
It's about telling this man he needs to take Vermox
because at least one of my kids has pinworms,
and how, these days, I hang my head in the toilet
searching shit for signs of parasites
as if they were the threads of my life unraveling
and I could stitch them back together again.
The whole family has to be treated, and I can't
figure out a way to tell him this
without implying he's part of the family.
And that might scare him away, the very thought
of being part of a family with worms,
with an eight-year-old who plays Boxcar Children
barefoot in the dirt, baking cakes
of grass and sticks, who pretends her father's dead,
that she could bear to lose her mother too.
Or part of a woman who's spent so much of her life
in the bathroom, on her knees. See,
this is not a poem about death, not yet,
but a love poem, my first.
PANAMA CITY BEACH, FLORIDA
for my sister
I know you are here, Kelly,
for as sure
as sway-backed rednecks and big-boned
girls in string bikinis haunt these bars,
I can feel you in the wasted air.
These were your stomping grounds, this gulf
a potion making you so dissolute
you had to rise from wave-foam,
pull yourself together just to make a ghost.
Whose idea, anyway, to throw you to the fish,
when it was beautiful dumb boys you liked best?
We should have scattered your gold flecks of bone
on the Spinnaker dance floor, where you'd've
outmingled the sand and hopeful dust, gone
home on some blonde lifeguard's boot heels
to whoop it up and sleep it off.
So what kind of guardian angel can you be?
We never got along. I despised the simple
vocabulary of your friends--the man
and coowul, GED and DUI, your culture
of drugstore haircolor and cat fights.
I paid a fortune for my red hair, my friends
went to colleges nowhere near the woods
of West Georgia, and that made me better than you.
We went to Destin, Sandestin, where
my then-husband could loll on the golf course,
return smelling of sweet grass and nonchalance.
And now, the years turned inside out
like an air-brushed t-shirt, it's me in Panama City
because suddenly I can't stand my kids or the boyfriend
who felt fit to announce after eight months,
I'm not in love with you. But it might change.
I'm the woman whose roots are showing
like an oil-based stain that can't be covered.
What have you done with him--Tad the Frat Boy,
twenty-three year-old I picked up at the Barefoot Bar
just to prove, at thirty-three, I could.
What's happened to him, turned hostile at no,
since he put me out in the street--trashed
and stumbling down the strip as well as ever
staggered any tattooed girl named Tammy?
And from where did you send it, the white stretch limo
I didn't call, too drunk to dial a phone,
the one whose driver knew my name
and where to take me home?
Tania Rochelle received
her MFA from Warren Wilson in 1997. Her work
has appeared in New York Quarterly, Iris, Snake Nation Review, and
The Free Cuisenart, among other print and online journals.
She teaches writing at Portfolio Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
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