Still Life with Roaches
You open a drawer and you find one, not one but a collective of beady-eyed staring bastards.
Their antennae undulate in your direction. They taste the food particles on your breath.
Their ancestors once tasted dinosaur breath.
This is not really a still life. This is finding a nest under your daughter’s bed, and nearly punching a hole in the wall but stopping because she is watching.
It is not a fair fight—chemicals against population mass.
You are alone.
What is this really about?
You do not remember. Something about food, or God and justice.
Or the story of another woman on her knees, scrubbing her way toward an afterlife that may or may not reward the pious and the bored.
I want to live with wild things
I do not want the echo of asphalt on my knees
the smell of exhaust
in my hair
Turn the blare of the horn into bird call
the car into a small brown fox
darting across my path at 6 a.m.
I want dirt leaf rock
pounded into coal packed earth
I want branches overhead
the rattle of my body
loose in its skin all sinew muscle and blood
my ragged breath mixing
against the vibrato pulse of Tennessee hills
cicada buzz of late summer heat
the stripe of sweat cool
and slick down the spine of my shirt
I want my dogs tame as they are to run
with old wolf smells in their noses
I want them to feel
what it is
to be savage I want my girls
to remember it too: their delicate edges
forgotten the sunrise curve of their shoulders
brown and glossy lean and strong
I wish them the mouse corpse
on the trail the stinging nettle the blackberry
I want them to know the bloody scrape
of thorn on palm the price of sweet fruit.
When December leaves you longing
for spring, you can at least have
a hot shower at 1 pm the water
calling you back to the Médanos de Coro
where you gulped and gulped
from the facet, knowing
it would rot in your gut, but unable
to stop after months of cheap plastic bottles.
You can have the girl-dog’s head in your lap,
her eyes soft and muzzle
sleek, nose twitching to catch scent
of your breath. You can have
the eagerness of her body, her curving
spine calling out, “love me,
love me.” You can have the shimmer
of goldfish in their tank, plump
and fortunate, where they were once
weak and burned black. You can wake
to a small hand on your arm, a high voice
telling you how purple birds sang in her dream,
and you can have too, the lean
hot body of her sister tucked through the night,
her smell of pears and milk flowing over your sleep.
It is true there are clothes
on the couch and dirt on the floor. That the belts
squeal in the truck every time it rains
and that your husband just found a nest
of black widows in the yard.
But you can have that precious hour
while the children sleep, can have
ginger tea and winter tree branches swaying
against crisp blue sky
that color which comes only with the cold.
Carolyn Stice is currently working on her Ph.D. in Creative Writing at UT Knoxville, where she served as poetry editor for their graduate literary magazine Grist. She has a particular interest in the work of female poets, especially that which deals with the landscape of the body. She is also working on a project translating the work of women poets of Venezuela. Carolyn’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cutthroat, China Grove, The Clark Street Review, Antipodes, Painted Bride Quarterly, Permafrost, Booth, Electra Magazine, and Stirring: A Literary Collection.