Four Poems by Anna Journey

Anna Journey

Elegy Where I Initially Refuse to Eat Sand

My mother liked to eat beach glass and sand
people stepped in. Not many
girls would forgive

such a palate. I was willing
to forgive her half moon-
shaped cookies called Swedish sand tarts

before I believed the old world
ingredients wouldn’t make me cough
sea shanties or pirates’ bones, notes-

in-a-bottle. Like the letter my newly dead
uncle’s just sat down to write
since his heart attack slumped him

in the sand near his yellow
house on stilts. He died digging
to heal his hurricane-

split sewer line. I was willing
to forgive his last words to me—
two weeks before—as we swam

through the lukewarm gulf: Where’d you get
those boobs?he laughed through
his backstroke. He wore red

seaweed on his bald spot. He refused
dentures, drawled with a lisp that hinted
at what’s missing. I was

willing to forgive his last words
because I coughed up a salt wind,
because I hummed, Way,

hey, blow the man down! as I kicked the dark
glass: a Budweiser’s end. By then the bottle’s note
had vanished, or got soaked clear through. By

then I knew Where’d you get
those boobs, meant how violently childhood
bites its mirage into the waves, or I painted

the beach house yellow after
your favorite storybook bird. My mother
liked to eat beach glass and sand

people stepped in. This Christmas I ask
for the recipe that will raise
all the gulf’s grit in my mouth.

The Spirit of the Hour Visits Big Pappa’s Barbeque Joint

No one notices my wings—folded, hollow-
boned. Across the room a girl slurps
red sauce from her fingers, and I fill
with the scent. Its thick molasses
marrows up my carpus, my
metacarpus. This is

why I come here. To remind myself
I was once alive. To weigh myself down,
down to the wishbone that almost
breaks when I remember
how the world tasted—summer rain
on my neck that rolled off,
off like the hour. Or the old house
with its broom closet door—the oak grain
pencil-marked with girl-heights. Once
my sister and I were small enough

to slow down time. We climbed
the cedars on each side of the yard. Scent
peeled from them in strips. Once we
crawled up the swing set’s ladders and lay
across its top rungs at dusk. We watched
for long-eared bats, hoped to get bitten
by vampires and changed, until
the flank steak flamed and smoke
moved through the kitchen window,
until the voice

of our mother called us back. The rack
of ribs arrives at my table. I raise
its flesh to my mouth. I’m allowed this
bite before my wing-bones empty,
before I rise, red-lipped, a vinegar
sting in each corner of my mouth.

Moose Head Mounted on the Wall of Big Pappa’s Barbeque Joint

His form half-disappeared like the hind
legs of your childhood. Like its hooves.
The moose—whose body is now
a stone fireplace with a smoked-
over hole at the heart—stares
elsewhere. One glance at his glass eyes sets
your trigger-finger twitching. It’s
not a gun snug against your thigh,
just your pulse that holsters
a memory: that boy with the fetish who’d beg
to suck your eyeball. You’d offer
the roll of your right eye, then
the left one’s plush. His tongue
tipped with nicotine flicked your veins
a wilder red. You did this, sitting
on the brick wall of the abandoned
bread factory as scattered pigeon spines
vertebraed the mapleleaf viburnum. The flock
once flooded the chain-linked ryegrass
among blue dumpsters, cooing for crusts.
Now the kick of vinegar sours up
from the coral sauce on your rack of ribs,
and you sit with your past’s camouflage sliding
off in drops like a season. Like the one
the moose head remembers, which is
why the hunters must’ve craned his neck
to the right before they stuffed it. A light
snowfall, a starveling ginkgo. So he wouldn’t
scare off customers with the snipe
of his stare. So they hung him there,
the rest of him invisible. Who knows
how long he’s looked back.

Mercy

She spends the night with a man who once hunted deer,
who keeps squirrel meat

stacked in his deep freezer, the white ice
rising over red cubes like the animals’

fur as it returns. Cold night, she rolls closer to fit
the curve of his quilt-

slurred spine. She remembers
the patches’ outlines: scattered houses snipped

from dead women’s linen, those thin
A-frames. Better to snap

the neck of a shot deer than to wait for it
to slowly bleed. He believes this.

A sleepwalker, he often wakes
with a different woman’s

head between his knees. He holds
her vertebrae in place as one hand

cups the jugular, the other seizes
the skull. He wakes to the dull warmth

of limbs kicking the sheets, to the scream
of a deer becoming a woman.

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