Stephanie Rogers


       With thanks to Nicholson Baker,
       Dave Eggers, and Wally Lamb

You snap the jewelry box closed again,
set it on the yellow dresser, hand-
painted with monkeys.   In the mirror,
you see your expression, gnashy,
as if you're biting open a condom packet.

You know what
happens when your father fucks
your mother?   Birth, and if you're unlucky,
love that sits untouched in a green
and black jewelry box.  Years later
you'll read it in a newspaper headline;
despite the errands, groceries
and bad haircuts to get, you'll walk
around bewildered in some downtown area
and see it.  Not the front page -- that's
reserved for the guy who doused
himself with gasoline and lit a match -
it's after.  You'll read it but wonder
about things like which butterflies can be
safely eaten or the time you dug
into your left calf to pick
a scab that wouldn't bleed.
Months later, you pull instead,
a thorn stuck one inch deep.

The night, it happens.  The guy
you're with removes both socks
to reveal two webbed toes.  You'll remember
his smile, his hands in boyish fists
at his sides.  You can't do anything
about the man with the lit match, his skin
melting off like cottage cheese
or your mother strangling your father
with someone's missing shoelace.  So you'll
grab the jewelry box, open it, dangle
the bloody shoelace over the silk
and start walking again,
toward the sound of spilling water.

Location: Columbus, Ohio

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