Mending / Poem For Seth Walsh
By Stevie Edwards

            I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain
             it must sometimes make a kind of singing.
                  -Robert Hass

Every day people wake with spines in need
of mending, nights spent spooning absence.
There’s no sense in cursing at the barista for the chew
of grounds in your latte. Sometimes it’s impossible
to get a job right, especially early mornings, especially
when there’s a frontier of people impatient to leave you.
You’ve miscarried jobs before. A belayer, you made sure
the man put his harness on snug, told him if his foot slipped
off the fidgeting cable, you’d hold him flopping around
in the treetops. One foot in front of the other, the stuck
pulley, you should have noticed the slack was too much
to save him, no point in the care you put into the knots.
He didn’t slip or sue you. Call this grace if you can
believe in grace today. The news didn’t say what kind
of knot the boy tied. His parents found him with
his freckles still on. It doesn’t matter what kind of tree
as long as the boughs were strong enough to bear him.
Perhaps you could’ve moved to California and told him
a faggot is a bundle of twigs, but who’s to say he wasn’t
ready to set himself on fire? Or, you could’ve told him
the kids meant he was a fancy stitch that binds
delicate fabrics, old lace to silk, but it’s hard to feel
fancy while bees swarm your eyes. And sometimes
the dictionary is useless, which is what you tell your dad
when he says that in Merriam Webster it says marriage
is between a man and a woman. And you don’t mention
too much gin grinding your body against your roommate’s
or the small of a younger woman’s back in the morning
but bring home a law school boy from a good family
to plan your future over strawberry pie. The boy probably
didn’t drink coffee yet. He might have grown to make
chewy lattes too slowly. Maybe he’d never learn to sew,
hem his pants with staples. What must be true is this:
if a boy hangs from a sturdy branch alone, if wind
swings his limbs for hours, it makes a sound here.

For an Unnamed Black Academic
By Stevie Edwards

I called my dad racist when he called
all the black boys on our street drug dealers
and gang bangers, called his fist a godless
asshole when it answered my mouth,
but I’ve never had sex with a black man
sober, except one desiccated morning after,
our breath the death of a brewery,
his dreads knocking against my shoulders.
We don’t speak anymore because he ignored
my birthday, and he’s more afraid of phones
than I am of commitment. It’s almost
Thanksgiving. I will have to try to eat
gravy and carbs despite my dad
commenting on the girth of my love-handles
and how high-waisted jeans could help
cover them, which is why I needed you,
someone to grip my ugly and call it
useful, at the very least. I can’t live alone
because on afternoons when I’m a heap
of laundry sweating the floor, the only
good thing my hands can make of the day
is a piecrust, but I can’t eat my own handiwork
without contemplating the butcher’s knife,
how it can cut the fat from lean meat,
hack off bones and save them for good broth.
I’m sorry, I must have written something like
desire on your palm next to a number you should
wash off. Call me the punch line of a joke
where a white chick walks into a bar with heels
and easy legs and forgets her own damn name.

By Stevie Edwards

            The university twinkles on the hill above my house.
                  — Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

At twenty I learned how hunger could flood
a body, how the most human thing is to struggle
against gravity pulling your soggy limbs
down into the earth. I had a choice:
to live off credit cards or not live or let men
pay to swim in me. I am alive and will pay
for those months until I declare bankruptcy.
I don’t want to tell my children this.
My children will know Shakespeare
and the cocktail slur and stagger of a mother
held upright by a bespectacled stranger
better than hoarding creamers and jellies
from diners. They will be as much of the shelter
of Ivy League legacy as of white trash
undressing herself for men who speak nothing
like her father. I will tell them to thank God
or latex or the god of latex for not bringing them
to my young body of thirst and boxed-wine,
for letting them wait. They could’ve been raised
in a trailer, a home with no footings to withstand
windstorms, bellies filled by tips and leftovers
from another waitressing gig. I will tell them
I have lived in a time of impossible buoyancy.
Each spring, poor engineering and five months
of melting snow conspired to turn my childhood
home into an island until the sun released us
into swampland. Nothing I loved ever drowned
or died of hypothermia. This is their birthright:
to always keep above the icy waters.

For K
By Stevie Edwards

K is seven, still young enough
to know his body is an instrument,
that to move is to create
rhythm. His small feet stomp out
an invocation on the bleachers.
Pencils become drumsticks.
His mouth, a beat-box.
He is a song asking everything
why it is not dancing.
He is indiscriminate in his want,
doesn’t care or understand
that my white limbs need whiskey
to shake off a spastic liturgy
shrouding their rhythm,
that there’s no dancing in my home.
He grabs my hands, makes me
his marionette, demanding
they remember what it means
to be electrified by the beat,
to glide through air, to be
unapologetically young,
and swallows me in his grin
as he proclaims, Look
you’re dancing! You’re dancing!

Stevie Edwards currently resides in Ithaca, NY, where she is working toward completing an MFA in creative writing at Cornell University. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Good Grief, is forthcoming at Write Bloody Publishing in Spring 2012. She is the editor-in-chief/founder of MUZZLE Magazine and a proud alumnus/founding member of Real Talk Avenue in Chicago. Her work has appeared in several literary journals, including Rattle, Thieves Jargon, Union Station, Night Train, Word Riot, PANK Magazine, and decomP.