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Poetry

Poetry Issue #72

Ode to Avocado 

My dear alligator pear, you fickle berry fruit.
To bow to your every whim is pure devotion.
Neither Dionysus nor Pomona could cherish
your unpretentious grassy undertones so.


When I peel your pebbled skin, green petals curl

at my feet, and I exhume paper-husk flakes encasing
the seed where carotenoids dwell. I envision tissue
expelling a newborn in a gushing potage of possibility.

I favor your slightly nutty, creamy pulp
to the wild cardoon, to its thistle, to bracts
bathed in butter, but I’m not here to lecture,
certainly not to you.

The rehearsed fingers in which I moisten a
facial tissue and wrap your seed, then set you in
darkness are tender, routine. You metamorphose
from moist to withered, splitting and sprouting,
just how I like you.

I ready the soil and believe that if
flesh were fruit, perhaps mortals
could also become such luscious,
merciful souls.


Like Spiders

“Poetry is a fresh morning spider web telling a story of moonlight hours of
weaving and waiting during a night.” ~ Carl Sandburg

I.

 

Is it possible?

 

That we live among a quadrillion arachnids. To clarify, a quadrillion has
          fifteen zeros. Think of it as one million multiplied by a billion.

 

The average household has sixty-one spiders. Under a cast-iron bell, behind a
          can of cleanser, beneath a hairbrush, in the tuft of a slipper.

 

While I’ve never seen a family of spiders I imagine them communing in my
          closet, beneath my bed, quietly decapitating earwigs, ants, gnats, fleas,
                    saving me from ticks and Lyme disease.

 

My five-year-old brother once pulled the legs off a common house spider—
leaving
          hair-fine fangs—flicking it into the fireplace to pop and sizzle like corn.

 

II.

 

All told Aranea eat between 400 – 800 million tons of prey each year. We
          would die without those who eat the pests that eat our crops.

 

Spiders die from eating the insects we poison. Die from the poisons we buy to kill
          them. Die from boot heels, rolled newspapers, the bristles of brooms.

 

They die from skewers and grills and hot oil, served up by vendors in paper cups
          on dusty sidewalks.       No judgment from carnivore hell.
                    Spiders are cheap protein and people need to eat.

 

I once batted a black widow from the collar of my father’s Muscle-T. The globe shaped
          abdomen and red hourglass bloomed in pernicious symmetry.

 

“Always shake out your shoes before putting them on,” my father warned.


“Females are the worst.”

 

III.

 

The combined biomass of adult humans is 287 million tonnes. If spiders
mobilized

 

—and if they really wanted to—
they could eat every person on earth in less than a year.

 

An orb weaver once spun a braid of life under the porch light of my childhood
home.
          We waited together in darkness for things unseen and unsaid.

 

That annoying floater in my periphery
          an involuntary slap
    I watch eight legs wither

obliterating an ancestor of four million centuries.

 

Is it possible?

 


(Wide) Awake

                                                

faces,      upside down in an aquarium of empty sockets in the ceiling fan       a 

flammable family        familiar         yet           no one has the same eyes or 

or even goes to church              yet            we scratch at the same veins 

 

just tonight in the shower my toenails sort of pile up in the drain      my skin 

withers        like corn husks            my ears sprout cherry stems       i know how 

onions feel          bleeding out on a cutting board 

 

i used to be tan       now my face is a tributary of drunk elephant lala anti-wrinkle 

cream             senescence chews on the crotch of my bagged-out panties        

black thread unravels        like a primordial tampon string

 

                                 my body oozes         whenever      wherever it wants 

 

the stains on the sheets aren’t so bad        it’s the rust on the mattress pad that 

gets me        maybe I should buy a plastic liner?     ramp up the kegels? 

 

instantly,          another light bulb bursts      an ejaculation of glass seeds with 

microscopic tails             it’s like trying to sleep under a colossal wishbone    it’s like    

           

                               what’s the word?       where do they go?        words?

 

          thrashing in a bra with straps like raw lasagna noodles      it’s stupid buying 4 

oranges when only 3 fit in the bowl       even when i’m in a bar i think of a mimosa 

as a tree       

            

startled by daylight          relatives sow roots in my pillow case     i play 

with the lint in my pocket        ball it up like a prayer bead        and close my eyes

                                                   subject of a new story

 

                                          of course i’m barefoot        i’m in bed    

                              


Joining My Mother for Breakfast at a Downtown Motel

                                                     

Where I’m sure I’ve forgotten some holiday.

 

A man who looks older than god sits across from her in the motel’s breakfast room. 

They split a maple-glazed donut like she used to do with my father. I’m introduced to Fred who appears to be bewildered and shuffles off.

 

“They have plain yogurt and hardboiled eggs,” my mother says.

She thinks I should be on a diet. “I’d rather have your pimento-cheese in a jelly jar.” 

 

Brochures are strewn across the vinyl table. “Free Underground Donut Tour.” “Spicy Chicken and Beer Pub Crawl.” “Food of the Gods Immersion Workshop.” 

 

“Where did you get these?” I ask.

She rolls her eyes like she’s my child. “The lobby, where’d you think?”

The cook rings a bell and calls her by name. “Bea? Your egg-beater-no-salt is ready.”

Everyone seems to know her.

“Do you really have a room here?” I ask. 

“Is that any of your business?” she asks back.

My mother is eighty-seven and still drives. A two-door-hatchback-fastback. Minor dents, hubcaps intact.

A man in a hairnet swings by with her plate. “Enjoy, honey!”

My mother pretends not to hear. She squeezes a packet of ketchup over her eggs, takes two or three bites, and folds her napkin into a neat square.

 

“Eating like a bird is a misnomer,” she tells me.

“You’re right.”

“Because birds eat seven times their body weight a day,” she says anyway.

I follow her into the ladies’ room where she dumps a basket of Tampons into a purse large enough to hold a six-pack of toilet paper. Today she only takes one roll because it’s single-ply.

“Not a word,” she says.

“Tampons are good for nose bleeds,” I say.

I laugh because she laughs.

The café has emptied out. My mother makes one last sweep, eying a surveillance camera, lingering by tiny tubs of cream cheese and peanut butter.

“Why pass up a good deal?” she asks.

I know how she thinks. Free isn’t stealing. It’s thrift.

My mother says, “Do you think I’m losing it?”

“No, it’s me. I’m losing it.”

“I said it first!”

I walk my mother to her car while she tells me about Happy Hour. “Five to seven. Complimentary wine and unsalted pretzel sticks.”

“Is it a date?” she asks me.

“It’s a date!” I tell her.


Senescence

Scurf dangles from my eyelash i flick mottled
skin sticks to the wall     wet and winking     like
cooked spaghetti a Rorschach no one will eat

my eggs once thick and yearning blown-out
stuffed with confetti but never mind   days turned
upside down still tick

i turn my wrinkles inside out frail bones move around
more easily in loose skin then buzz   half my hair
to remember left from right

who knows if the bra on the doorknob is empty or full?
the hook and eye touch secretly behind my back   my
    best lipstick breaks i’m contemplating   veins

cascading unsupervised       like a measuring tape
belt or a noose? ha! vain still rhymes with pain

each breath grows closer together thirst snags on socks
too big for my woes       i wonder   which pocket
holds the sweetest seeds? tell me i’m not alone   and

why can’t i climb from the calendar just this once?

By Sherry Shahan

Sherry Shahan is a teal-haired septuagenarian who writes in a laid-back beach town in California. Her poetry has appeared in F(r)iction, Plentitudes, Open Minds, Zoetic Press, Antitheses, Progenitor, and elsewhere. She’s nominated for The Pushcart Prize in Poetry, 2024, and holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.