Three Poems by Anna Cabe

03/14/2019

Carriers

 

Each morning, I tie a note

to you on a bird’s leg. The birds change

daily—pigeons, owls, swallows,

parrots the shades of the rain-

bow—dappling the sky. Scroll after scroll—

no answer. They’re not love notes, I swear.

They’re the minutiae of a simple life, the tasks

of someone living alone, who has carrier

pigeons instead of telephones.

 

Once,

passenger pigeons blackened the sky.

It became night when they rose,

the flocks of them a wave that

obliterated grain, speech, light. A plague.

People brought guns. No matter how many died,

they were endless. Hunt after hunt until Martha,

the last, died in Cincinnati without issue.

 

Perhaps someone kept DNA samples.

Perhaps someone will resurrect the

breed. Perhaps one day I too will

release a thousand passenger pigeons—

each with a note around its leg, each

directed to you, and you cannot, will not

ignore the missing sun, the beat of myriad wings.

 

 

 

Portrait of My Mother as a French Bulldog

 

I wake up and my

mother is a French

bulldog. She cocks

her head at me and shits

on the rug. If my mother

were still human, she’d shout,

Where is the potty? but she is

a dog and can only woof.

My mother, the French bulldog,

is as black as the hair she had

as a girl. My mother’s pink

tongue sticks out, drool drip-dropping

at her paws. She trots after

me through the house. Her

nails click-clack and I imagine

her saying, What? The floor is

ruined, but she is a dog. In

the kitchen, our pantry overflows

with kibble, bacon and hamburger

grow frost-fringe in the fridge. My mother’s

wedding plates are monogrammed

dog bowls. My mother howls, and I pour

processed chicken pellets into a bowl

and she howls and I fry bacon

and it spatters and she howls

and I scream, Mom, what do

you want? My mother licks

my foot and I imagine she

tastes dead skin, salt, hated

dirt. But she is a dog—I

scratch the unfamiliar fur

between her ears. She pants,

saliva wetting her mouth. My

mother rarely wore lipstick, never

left red kisses on my cheek. My

mother’s snout nudges my hand, leaves

moisture on my palm. I let it stay.

 

 

 

 

Snow White, on Finding a Pair of Iron Shoes While Spring Cleaning

 

 

My husband tells me I still

trust too easily—

See, everything that’s come to me

since then has been gentle—deer nibbling

at my fingers, birds landing on my

shoulder to trill sweetly

into my ear.

 

I can’t explain it to

him. Once, I asked my

stepmother for new shoes. I was nine—

a growing girl. My pinky toe

poked out the side of my

slippers. And she

laughed—laughed!—

while she peeled an apple,

crimson skin spiraling to

the parquet. A pair of shoes—

my feet blistering, oozing pus

and blood. Then can’t he understand

why I chose to trust the smile of an old

woman, how she offered me

gifts in her open hands?

 

Listen, I’ll toss the combs and

girdles in the Hefty bags, though their

poison’s been long leached away. I’ll

compost the apple cores he keeps forgetting

beneath his throne. I’ll sweep our castle of

everything—diamond dust, stocking caps

unraveling to yarn, the gristled remnants of

a boar’s heart. But these shoes—

 

I remember strapping them on

her feet, red-hot from the fire,

the way her dainty soles blistered,

her smooth flesh seared like

steak. Her screams—the orchestra

playing the quickest waltz faster,

faster, faster. My stepmother’s feet

livid with burns, her toes enflamed,

swollen as apples, her eyes turned towards

me—a plea. I closed.

I turned away.


 

 

 

 

 

Anna Cabe's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bitch, Terraform, The Toast, Noble/Gas Qtrly, Cleaver, HEArt Journal, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and Fairy Tale Review, among others. She received her MFA in fiction from Indiana University and was formerly the nonfiction editor for Indiana Review. She is currently a 2018-2019 Fulbright Fellow in the Philippines. You can find Anna at annacabe.com.



 


 

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