Two Poems by Adele Elise Williams

When You Are Ready The World Gives You A Gift

Once in Lake City, TN I tried to impress a breaker breaker one nine, but the
truck stop barmaid quickly squawked that I was a slut, so go away. Back
then what I was worth was between my legs and on my back. In Tennessee
I lost it all to that bar, to that maid of neon lights, and the World went, here
is your mother, your father too. Ask them for help. No World— I am still
thirsty. No warm World— I am still moving. Put wheels under me— there
is no stopping the science of a roll. I have a name for a girl like me and it
sounds like running. I have a chip on my shoulder and it’s heavy as hell.
The World knows. I spent six years loving many men, many hearts. Forty-
eight months drowning brown liquor, sixty days in a woods rehab, two
winters full blown sober before the World wrapped me a present and inside
my only job was leavening— bubbles of expiration and a sour starter.
Now, I know how to save levain. I know how to shape a dough. I know
that time and temperature will change everything. Chef said: to bake bread
you need flour, water, mother, fire, and I thought, how romantic. How
possible. But I knew, to be a bread maven, a true fire momma— I would
need the right tools, rather, unfettered fodder. Hello me. I am everything hot
and puffy. I am named after Filo, after Brioche, after Hokkaido. I persist like
starter. I reek like lactic. If you are a drunk you can be something else too,
but first the drunk, second the dream. Do you know that time and suffer will
change everything? You can ferment anything with enough sweet, enough
warmth, enough time. With enough attention, you can make God’s wheat
into a day job, into a reason to stay clean. I got a name for my kind of gal—
she is all hands, she is dough too hydrated to pillow. I got a name for the
warm and wet, a name for the rise punch. Bread is bigger than just the
swell— it is the quality of the caramel that determines the divine. This takes
time. Three A.M wakes and four A.M mixing, folding and shaping and
bake offs— once I was a drunk daughter now I feed a hundred mouths.
                    Hundreds of sticky tongues lollop my dough. 

Tift Merritt is breastfeeding in the bathroom stall

next to me, and I saw her through the crack;
you know the stall crack we all peek through

on the way to our own, peeking for comfort:
can we do what we came to do without fear

of someone hearing my body being a body, of God
help me if I fart, peeking for presence, for

do I know you? Can I bubble and we both
laugh because I am a woman with a body being

a body? But I do not know Tift; still I peeked
and saw a rush of peony blouse or bee balm

blouse, and the slice of a milking eye, and I saw
her blond baby girl in her arms: a sack of fresh

fruit. Passion. Careful. Careful. I saw Tift's two
feet in leather boots, soft and sunny brown like

boys in the Summer, and I saw her wild hair:
a straw broom not new, and I saw her baby

girl's baby feet in Mary Janes with real deal
soles. But I do not know Tift, so I just sat in my

stall and thought of her breast out and useful right
there next to me. I thought of my own, pocket-sized

and never used for life-giving, just used for the quiet
whisper of my sex and occasional suckled

kisses. Tift's tit is out right next door. I saw
the pillow of its exposure, the not flop but the heavy

reveal, perfect and plush and titty fat high on top
and secret on bottom. I caught a glimpse of her hair

tickling her chest, of her hair on her daughter's hair,
so they were both together, wild hair and husk hair

so so fine, so meddled, and I do not know Tift
or her baby, but I remember my own baby dome:

incredibly wisped with such a yellow you'd think 
I was full of holy or hate, and I did not see Tift's nipple,

but I wanted to;

I bet it's rearing and ready like a murder ballad; 
I bet it's hot and tender as a woman on fire.

Adele Elise Williams is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and is currently an MFA candidate at Virginia Tech where she recently served as poetry editor for the minnesota review. She now works as an assistant editor for Noemi Press. Her poetry can be found or is forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, The Appalachian Anthology, and elsewhere. 

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