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Five Poems by Quinn White

Public Works

A woman waits for the bus.
She drags a wooden chair onto her porch.
I hear keys in her purse.
Morning, quiet.

I walk to sweat-out last night’s vodka.
I see her scalp from across the street.
A blonde German Shepherd watches
from her window. The bus beeps.
I pretend not to spy.

I believe she spies on me, stares
with my own face–Neighbors say
she’s a lunatic with too many animals.
One day, she asked me for an envelope.
Panicked : “Just one,”

as if envelopes were forbidden
pills that summoned dog-English and parrot kings.
Pills eaten to lessen the pull of a dust mask,
to trick the dust into ice, feet into skates,
fear of falls into giddy triple axles.

I handed her three,
said “I have more,”
meant “me too.”

I see the bones behind a smile,
hear ticks in crepe myrtle trees.
I live with creatures I’m told don’t speak.


Living Dead

“The Silent Scream” is a snuff film
the pastor played in our living room.

A shadow shaped like a baby
opens its dark mouth
when the scraper nears.

I sat in the stairwell.
I held my ears
with my cold hands.
The flatline pierced.

Alive, my daughter is a ghost.

I scratch time like a DJ,
hoping her voice will clear the pulse.


Supermarket C-Section

Second trimester,
I worked in a Christmas store.

I wore the black dress
and hid behind a village of tiny homes
tipped in plaster snow.

Years later, grocery shopping, my boss caught me
in the bananas, said how proud
she was I survived, a rosy size seven.

The black dress had failed.

I was six months pregnant in produce.

Apples, lemons, star fruit,
a woman weighing lettuce

all knew.

A stock girl abandoned her cherries
to kiss my stomach.

Doped open,
a friendly cervix among the mangoes.

Strange fingers slipped in and out,
a knife,
a gesture like a cheek kiss,

as innocent, as damning.


Tumbling

Cells followed their zygotic path.
This was no war zone.

I decorated a tree with paper snowflakes.
I unwrapped a ruby necklace, tickets to a sunny place,
lipstick made of crushed diamonds, a mink teddy bear.
I pulled green strings and bows deflated.

That year no one taped my boxes.

A fork, a plate, a piece of pecan pie was a vignette
framed by a lace napkin I could stain if I chose.

A court date came. I signed papers.

On the way home, an engraved crocodile wallet,
caviar and crackers, someone pointed to a chandelier,
said “Yours if you want it.” I did and rode to Applegate Lane,
copilot to the sound of crystals. Teardrops trapped

and released light until the car was a raw gem tumbler.

I napped while a visitor dismantled the tree.

My name was cursive silk on my nightgown.
A hospital date came. A nurse pointed to a baby,

“Say goodbye.” I did and cards arrived.

Thinking of me. Embossed with angels
who surveyed and assured us all

a plan existed and we followed that plan.


Legerdemain

I was a young thief.

Church carnivals, I pretended
to be twins so I could score
double candy apples.

Pregnancy tests,
I took in rural
grocery store bathrooms.

Why didn’t I lift her bow?
It would’ve fit
in my fist without
a crush.

Sessions with my Birth Mother Coach
trained me to exit St. Vincent’s,
flowers alone in my lap.

The drugs and wheelchair were hysterical.
Nurses, doctors, and needles applauded.

I awarded my daisy spray to a woman
who wheeled patients to exits.

For years, I held a neutral expression
every time I saw babies.


About the author:

Quinn White is the author of My Moustache (Dancing Girl Press, 2013) and Orienteering (Origami Poems Project, 2013). Quinn’s poems have appeared in journals online such as Sixth Finch, Hot Metal Bridge, and Word Riot. Quinn is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a past editor of The Minnesota Review and Toad. She earned her MFA from Virginia Tech in 2014. She lives in Alabama with her husband and cats.