She sweeps your body for landmines.
You tell her you are a field. Tell her,
fallow but ready to burst.
She unearths tools from your junk drawer,
a map, incomplete, ink rubbed raw at the folds.
Your hands have forgotten how to use a compass.
You could show her the way they dug you up,
the black dirtholes turned to mounds turned
to flat earth. You could show her
the new grass that lies.
She asks if she may trespass, sweet thing.
Maybe she doesn’t even know
how to hold a shovel, a pitchfork,
Say yes. Say, this body is a conduit
(Say, this body
is a conduit.)
Is it a courtship
if I tell you
I carry a pocket knife?
If I show you
of railroad spikes,
Iron and sandstone,
the earth pulled up.
If I carry a box,
but can’t tell you what’s inside,
is that a ghost story
or a love song?
Carve the deer’s antler
to make a blade handle.
Wrap it in leather.
Sew it with sinew.
Carry a broken compass
but insist it points north.
Insist that everywhere
is north. Tell me
these clouds look like snow.
All the Martyrs and the Saints
At almost eighty, Grandma
has earned the right to say,
“You don’t have no business
judging no one.” But at seventeen,
twenty, thirty, she is a black-and-white
photograph, a white satin party dress,
her sister beside her, melancholy always,
and Grandma is the thief
of husbands, the sharp eyes
of a taker.
Reconcile this: “bitch”
is a loaded word, explicitly gendered –
all long hair, full lips, full breasts,
puckers up the tip of my tongue these days
like too much salt.
Then there’s this red-haired bitch.
For her, I’ll use the word
like I am preserving a dying language.
I’ll hurl it at the idea of her
like a grenade, like a stone, like a thing
I’d use my body against like a shield
when it’s used against other women,
when it’s used against me.
Cultivate love and generosity,
compassion like a chest full
of extra hearts. Store it up,
fill the void left by men who earn
my sympathy and aren’t expected
to give anything back.
Grandma made love with her sister’s husband,
made my mother who made me.
1979, sunbathing naked on the deck, waiting
for the mess of kids to come home,
her sullen sister miles away,
stitching together nurses’ uniforms
in the factory, her fingers gentle,
guiding the fabric. Her fingers gentle,
folded in prayer.
Amber Edmondson is Michigan native who just left the frigid wilderness of the Upper Peninsula to live in Chicago. Her work has appeared on Autostraddle and in Menacing Hedge, among others, and her first two chapbooks are forthcoming in 2016: Lost Birds of the Iron Range (Porkbelly Press) and Darling Girl (Dancing Girl Press).