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Making Penne with Basil-Seafood Sauce

I gather shrimp, octopus, basil, clams, tomatoes,
garlic, cream. I clasp my knife, a bridge to life, slice cloves
slimmer than the hopes I hold on to with every morning sip
of coffee. I split the shrimps' spine, pick out the long black thread
of its existence. It feels nice to smoosh on a paper towel, watch
the darkness pile up, cram it into the trash. If only.

Calamari is interesting to cut - all those little legs with their stories,
those eyes begging a neat divorce, ashamed. Sweet squid,
I swear I didn't look at you as I severed your limbs. My four
keep me humble. I think my son is on drugs. Chopping tomatoes
is numbing, I could do it for hours. Plums, only plums, bright red eggs
made for dicing. The knife slides through the thin skin—as I watch
the juice spurt out, the seeds, I remember his birth and I chop
and chop and chop until the cutting board is full of miniscule

pieces so I start again, because the recipe calls for thick chunks.
I think my son is on drugs you know, so I saute garlic in olive oil
until golden, that color of summers in the Adirondacks when little boys
with dark hair turned blond, and mother was someone who shined
like a new penny. And I cook and cook, stir it all with grandma's
wooden spoon while I state as a fact that I think my son is on drugs - say it
to the frying pan, the pasta pot, the cutting board. Yes, I think he is.



She likes to think her shoulder blades are gulls,
flapping in diverse directions. The left sails low,
to skim the salt of sea, nip for fish;
the right soars into beams, feathers gleaming;

her spine a snake of bone, twisting
through the swamp of her, shifting things.
Her hands are oxen-strong, cracking thread
of seams and hems, stitches ligament-tight.

Each night she stretches, pulls, unfurls;
curves herself to perfect posture. Aligned
in sleep, no beasts exist, and she finds beauty
in that emptiness.


Mothers Are Funny That Way

We wonder how it came to this,
smoking our cigarettes hard,
as if that inhale could shrivel the words
we know we'll say, as it does our lungs.

She hasn't seen her girl in three weeks,
thinks she fell in with a gang, drugs. I've had it.
I won't worry about her anymore she asserts,
hand shaking as she takes a drag. Detectives

have been to her home to look around, question.
She says they never asked if there was a father
in the house. Some things are a given. Most detectives
are men. Life is funny that way.

Our lips clasp the filtered ends like their mouths
did nipples long ago, before we understood
what hopeless really meant. My boy called me a bitch
last night. Sometimes I hate him, truly
, I tell her,

as I blow smoke rings toward a tall man's balding head.
The rings get larger, circling his neck, tightening,
until his tongue bulges purple and my ex-husband lies dead,
last words forgive me. Imagination is funny that way.

We talk tough, hands on hips, jaws set in a jut. Smoke hangs
in the air between us, like our lies. I see her wet, frantic
eyes through it, and I know she sees mine. We crush
butts under pumps and go back to work, breathing.





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