Melissa Studdard
Three Poems

 

In the Teeth of Her Frown

 

 

That was the year we

prayed inside the temples inside

each other’s mouths, lit our tongues

in hope’s crossfire,

while the child called

Mama Mama

to the stone-eyed

road. Dumped on the highway like a dog. That was

the year we knelt to siren scream, tried to help her:

her polka-dotted suitcase, her

scabbed knees, snow warm blood.

When we asked her name, she said

thousands of lies live inside her the color of night,

like termites chewing down a barn,

like a card house

about to fall. We said,

We hate the person who did this to you.

She said, But what can you tell me

about love?


 
     
     
     
  ____________________  
 

 

 
     
     
 

Hanging from the Rafters

 

 

We got her a kitten

because her wrist was the color

of apples, browning just a little from the bite.

Her chest was a moth in a killing jar.

If you could trace her veins:

the widest rivers in the most fertile lands.

And it seemed for a while

sort of

Norman Rockwell,

sort of

okay. Her ruffle panties,

her Barbie dolls, the homemade cards.

Then one day

we discovered the carrots

floating in the toilet:

enemy soldiers from the reenactment,

refusing ablution,

their dark hearts reminding us

the body doesn’t forget.

 
     
     
     
  ____________________  
 

 

 
     
     
 

Losing Track of the Skeletons

 

 

Maybe she was building a sunset

out of bones. How could we tell through

the burning? Every

door she’d locked had been broken down. All

her windows smashed. We asked her age,

and she said she was a vacant house full of squatters,

that she wandered night with an owl

on the tip of a breeze.

Later, we drove her home through ash

as she sat singing

a river of angry fish. We fed her

bananas and blueberry syrup over

waffles with chocolate milk. We

conjured fairies and lucky

band-aids and unicorns for her wounds.

Soon, there was nothing left in her

but little girl, nothing but crescent

eyes and yawning, the burden of unearned trust.

And, so, we were

destroyed,

tragically hooked. And

she, being hurricane, or well-timed

laughter (who

knows which?) tore up

the one path

we thought we had cleared.


 
 



____________________

 
 

Of her debut poetry collection, I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, Robert Pinsky writes, “This poet’s ardent, winning ebullience echoes that of God…” and Cate Marvin says her work “would have no doubt pleased Neruda’s taste for the alchemic impurity of poetry.” Melissa Studdard is an editor for American Microreviews and Interviews, hosts Tiferet Talk radio, and judges the monthly Goodreads ¡Poetry! Group contest. She is also the author of the novel, Six Weeks to Yehidah, and a collection of interviews, The Tiferet Talk Interviews. Her awards include the Forward National Literature Award and the International Book Award. Her poetry, fiction, essays, reviews and articles have appeared in a wide-range of publications, including Pleiades, Poets & Writers, Tupelo Quarterly, Psychology Today, and Connecticut Review.