April 3, 2013

Ashley McCauliff

12 Items or Less

Standing in line at the local grocer I notice
a woman has plucked her breast
out of her shirt, and comparing herself
to a grapefruit, asks the cashier
if he could imagine one apart 
from the body,
a single breast cooling in a steel pan
perfectly intact, cartoonish even--
the nipple cherry red or bubble gum pink,
or perhaps, this breast is a balloon
filled with sand
and after careful examination
bares the indents of various sized
thumbs and forefingers, later identified
by means of Science
as the final blessings and farewells
of all the men who have passed
it  along--until it reaches its ending
in the basement of an ordinary hospital, where
the single, perfect breast,
is pickled in vinegar,
or packed into a steel drum
with other assorted organs
not able to be salvaged or refitted;
or tossed into a furnace,
ashes rising out of the hospital’s chimney
with smoke like sweet licorice.

The Last Supper

the Sabbath is not the only day we partake
in such passionate cannibalism--
While Sundays are for consuming Christ
we spend the other six consuming one another.

I lean over the counter and bite your neck
my mouth closed over that particular cord of muscle,
you know the one--you strained while posing
in the mirror, pulling at your skin in unnatural ways so as
to catch a brief glimpse of yourself near death or
forcibly alter the elasticity of your forehead,
cheek girth, those plump saddles
resting just below your eyes--

to ask if your pores bled more of your mother
and chin, your father.
I find no resemblance, and leaning over again
I taste the salt, blood, milk and sweat
at the corner of your thigh and wonder
if your mother has done the same
if she's consumed your father as I have
consumed you, never quite satisfied
until your quivering at the edge
of our mattress, afraid I might swallow you whole.


Ashley McCauliff was taken with Sharon Olds' poetry in college: the darker matter, terrain which otherwise would be ignored, repressed, cut out. She tries to discover these places in her own work and strike them with her language.

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