sporklet 14

Julia Edwards

To Jillian, the child psychologist who said I was too dangerous to treat

My mother drove us to your office in agony, me against
the window glass in blue, Dunkin Donuts drive-thrus,
armies of pine trees. You invited me
to the couch. 10 Advil PMs later, I fell
into the kitchen as my mother
hung up the landline and told me
it’s serious. I was dangerous, sitting

in the front seat as a solemn
friend’s mother said she coveted
my young virginity. Dangerous, undressing.
A danger to myself, curled under
the refrigerator, shrinking in my sleeves.
Dangerous enough to lie in my diary, leaving
a trail of vodka I didn’t drink. Dangerous. I killed
a slug with an atlas as it crept towards my feet.

Even on the toilet, I held myself, Jillian.
I screamed into the hole in the porcelain, drowned
my voice discreetly in its valves.

After I swallowed what you meant
by serious, my portrait on the wall
in the bathroom looked back
at me — the one from 2nd grade,
colored pencil, at Disney. The girl
was bloodstained, squirming. I woke up

drenched, the room rolled into
a rug, vacuum to my name. I shaved
my pussy, did the math homework. Yes,
I’m still afraid of the lamp that seduced
me at night, the way I stared into its bulb
after it burned through the shade.

In an elevator, I see a man with a crematorium bag

I co-exist with stupid relics —
Chanel cologne going stale
on a stolen funeral tissue,
smudged photo booth strip
with the glass pipe panel
cut out, your old band sticker
losing its adhesive. Nothing
fixed on my end but the motion
detector — not teeth or nail
or fragments of bones, not
a gold chain necklace, a stray
black strand on a leather jacket.
A relic is something I should
understand — an elevated
memento, life adjacent, fragile call
from the wildness next door, extra
marrow carved out of a ribcage
so rich I could drink myself placid.
What keeps me from the plunge
below? A certain mad amber
light from the buttons, the urge

to punch anything that functions.
In another version, you are with me in the elevator

Thick in heat’s summer swill, past noon, we stop arguing about
synchronizing the morning, leftover $12 breakfast sandwiches
greasing against our legs, paper sweltering, to discover the man
holding concealed animal ashes. His veterinary bag is plastic, not
even velvet or cloth. The man wears a cap, his quiet filling the box.
That was the saddest bag I’ve ever seen, you say when he gets off,
lava bobs in your throat at the thought of putting down a pet alone.
Will you know what to do when it’s dog’s time? You ask about our
imaginary rescue and I say I think I will. In this version of my grief,
I am calm, large — quick to forgive, pry open the doors. I fall in love,
impervious to the hungrier plots of death stalking into place once we
leave the tiny shaft, enter the hall. In this version of the bag, I take
it from your hand, cradle our bread, protect our cold eggs. In this
version, I open the box. In this version, I know what’s inside.

Julia Edwards is a poet from New York. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Bat City ReviewDiodeStirring, Carolina Quarterly, Brooklyn Magazine, among others. She holds an MFA in poetry from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, where she served as poetry editor for The Greensboro Review.