“Poetry wants to live where honesty and courage have been prioritized. Poetry is the first language of a free and flying unchained heart.”
— Nikky Finney in an interview with Scalawag Magazine
L. Renée is a third-year MFA candidate at Indiana University, where she has served as Nonfiction Editor of Indiana Review and Associate Director of the Indiana University Writers’ Conference. Her poems have been published or forthcoming in Tin House Online, Poet Lore, the minnesota review, Appalachian Review, Southern Humanities Review and elsewhere.
Welcome to the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. L. Renee, what poems have you brought for us today?
In the mirror, I palm my hips, remembering
phantom lovers’ grips which once reached
for this mess of ridged skin, stretched at the sides,
made permanently wide the summer
before 7th grade. That summer, little boys,
with their squeaky voices, flocked too
to my bare shoulders — their fingers
pecking at bra straps that peeked beneath
my tie-dye tank top as if winking at them,
as if asking for it — the tug of elastic
pulled as any good archer would a bow,
flung back as far as any good strap could go,
whirring through July’s sticky stillness until
it reached the target — whop! — slapping
my shoulders with the kind of sear seasoned meat makes
in a cast iron pan, the raging sizzle and hiss
as if stunned by its own burning. But I was never
stunned by the boys; I fretted only over my own
stupidity — for not properly hiding my
unmentionables. You are becoming a woman,
my mother said. I am becoming currency,
my body said. I am still trying to figure out
Some Nights We Have the Moon
There are no swans here, just corn
and potatoes pushing past small-
town dirt. I want to be done
with want, so I tell my feet
to stalk the wheat swaying
at the edge of a field
past the silos and scythes,
past the scabbed scaffolding
of the barn’s ash skeleton
where Old Man Blue hung
himself, after rows of turnips
refused to green. Sometimes
a person can have their fill of loneliness.
Desire is a tick that hides
on my haunches until
the bite pulses its red
district light, needling
my already silly goose-
pimpled flesh, need swelling
like interminable hurricane water.
When I float inside night’s shade
I try not to think of the wreath
of flies that lined his neck, how
breath left with a tawdry grunt,
but the stench of death stayed
salty in my mouth and I liked it.
Can blood cover shame?
The old man wouldn’t want his good
church friends to find him
swaying like that from the rafters,
so I cut the rope, watched
the body land like some beached star,
five-pointed with arms and legs spread,
the head bled a halo in perfect circle.
I let the wolf of me spread out
and howl full-throated at the pearl
in ink clouds, the incessant
incandescence, my back licked
by air’s black thicket.
I shouldn’t say what happened next,
how a thousand centipedes
squirmed beneath my skin, how tufts
of fur emerged from my pores,
how I bristled like a corn husk crushed
under a boot. I shouldn’t say my teeth
knew exactly what to do with their new
pointy tips, how top incisors tore
into his flesh as any country
girl would a waxy plum, careful
not to open the jaw too wide and waste
the tart juice jolt a tongue longs for.
It is easy to suck clean the marrow.
From any man’s flimsy bones, gristle
ultimately gives, mixes saliva into
a powdery broth, some succor to sweeten
sorrow’s bitter crop. I can’t tell you
why the moon reminds me of empty seats,
the rooms wiped clean of all who
have left us. I can’t tell you why I can’t let
my dead rest, why I’ve always savored
their carcasses. I have never been whole,
so there was room.
Note: End line taken from Vievee Francis’ “A Flight of Swiftlets Made Their Way In.”
You've been listening to the poetry of L. Renee on the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.