Michelle Bonczek Evory
This Piece of Art is Not a Dress
It is her body, the back opening
one layer at a time. See how
she lets you
in. So trusting is she she lets you
tie her paper hands down. How delicate
her eyes refusing to meet yours.
It is her way of pleading with you
to take her hair and twist it
around your fist until her face crumples,
to lick her neck until it sticks to your tongue
like a stamp, to run your thickest
finger down her hip edge until you figure
out what she is. You press your knee
to her pelvis wishing
it would rip. You push your fingers
against her sternum, until she gives.
I have been friends with myself
now for a few years and I have liked
myself 154 times to be exact, mostly
on early-cycle days. After unfriending
myself in my late teens, and again
in my early thirties, I’ve come to accept
my differences in opinion, scroll past
do not pass go straight to jail, post
bail, and move on. Sip sweet tea
in Virginia and Tennessee, buy some
new shoes on Madison and wear them
out on Park before tossing them
in the back seat of my silver car
to walk barefoot on Boardwalk. Clearly,
this isn’t Atlantic City. No casinos
or towers. No boats on the horizon
or fishermen casting lines into a barren
sea. No funnel cake, no cotton candy,
no saltwater taffy. In fact, the beach
is bare—sand and stinging jelly dried
into crisp strings. Just me, the love note
I tossed to the ocean as a child washes
on shore to my feet. It’s a love letter
to myself. I like the waves. It’s how I roll.
A bug inside a wide mouth jar yells
loud as a cloud. And it rains, of course.
And it pours its heart out, this bug,
like a stock pot the size of the world
gurgling all the earth’s gizzards and goo.
The Milky Way throws a shoe and it lands
in the bog where a tree frog leaps this year’s
desire, swims from one swimmy to the next,
hungry for something more than flies.
He leaps for lungs. He sings for slimy joy.
This is a world of lies, French fries, and ply-
wood, all of which are recyclable, though
no one tries anymore to save the world.
Now it’s time to save the planet, its moon
men, garbage flies lying dead at the base
of the Brooklyn Bridge. They must’ve leapt.
Don’t let the fish cakes fool you. Let them go.
The fish cakes. Let them go goodbye down
the Hudson. Goodbye. That dusty bottle of wine,
cork on the counter, is turning against you
while you’re busy changing tires, which
by the way, are not recyclable. Yet we keep on
rolling and reeling in fish after fish after fish
as if something about this isn’t fishy. It’s not
funny that they come in a can. The dolphins
aren’t laughing. Crickets are playing their legs
in silky darkness getting paid money, money,
money. Oh overworked, nervous cricket, will it
ever be Labor Day, or Memorial Day? Which one
is in May? Thank the dead for days off, thank
your mother for all those glasses of juice, thank
God for frog’s legs fried in pig fat, wrapped
in bacon. For each sweet cake and candle,
for every card, stocking, and paper
cut, for cool air in the blue basement where
the red furnace blasts heat to the sky, which we,
while we’re at it, might as well convince ourselves
and the kids—is where stars come from,
and where we go when we die.
Table for Two
I am what I am: a runaway
menu of forbidden fruits:
grapevine tempting you
with fermented sugar. But you
must be patient, join me
in the garden of fetishes
where French radishes grow
two feet long. Where avocados
so creamy darken under their own skin.
Here there are no bills
you cannot pay, no questions you cannot
answer. You will come.
We will glide. Let me help you
forget your addictions, your weakness.
We will tie them up with scarves,
swing their legs wide open, pierce
them till they sing. We will play
like children who roam their town
at night, wild as kittens purring
in the grasses, fingering the shadows,
licking at the light.
These dining room seats have been empty
all year. The salt shakers untouched, the dust
and crumbs of conversations past
sanding the wood, half
the table a pile of unpaid bills and unrenewed
subscriptions. Silence droops
like the cobwebs collapsing in unreachable corners,
walls yellowing those nights oh can you remember
the sound of his keys
rattling the front door open
to spring air and rain, the cardinals perched
in the flowering trees, your muscles
quivering, the cinnamon candles flickering
from the gust of him, the you back then
lifting out from yourself, flitting across the room
to welcome him home.
He zips his boots. His keys clink before he closes
the door, softly, now
his engine, the new snow, his marks,
then the pulling away.
Michelle Bonczek Evory is the author of The Ghosts of Lost Animals, winner of the Barry Spacks Poetry Prize and a 2021 Independent Publishers Book Award. Her Open SUNY Textbook Naming the Unnamable: An Approach to Poetry for New Generations is taught in creative writing courses throughout the country. She mentors poets at The Poet’s Billow and can be found at www.michellebonczekevory.com