carrying, for weeks
i eat lemon custard
until citrus chars the roof of my mouth,
bathe bread in pickle juice,
shortcakes line the counter.
still, i crave these things.
sometimes fizz water
or hot dough
becoming a bandage
around fat little bodies of cheese.
family who are not family
use my body as a worry doll,
looking for signs of the baby.
she’s there and not there,
leans against walls of flesh
that separate mother and daughter—
her bedroom door already shut.
still, i go to work at the library,
call my mother, we argue.
paint candy cane red nails for the holidays,
carrying the baby til the day is done.
awake after deep-sea sleep
together we bow-ride another day—
the killer whale and her calf
for fourteen days we both keep swimming.
while the nurse reviews procedures
the pill i’ve secretly stowed has kicked in—
oh little coral orb lights the way
deep down where the waters grow dark.
she shows me to a colorless room
where i disrobe, amused—
i wonder if i can do it—
remove arms and legs from their shell
into a new one made of thin green plastic.
i want to dance and so i do,
become seaweed braided far too tall
trip toilet/sideways wall.
chuckling, i practice a grave face
that no one will see anyway under a mask,
find the door, the place i am to lay—
doctor arrives with a shoal of women
flashing faces of protective scales.
it’s ok to play music the doctor says,
the women school around me, shimmering.
i choose afro psychedelica
and the road you’re taking, there is no end
Khala my friend, come back to me
Khala my friend, cause I’m gonna miss you—
am introduced to the machine—
we are all polite party guests—
a button is pressed.
i don’t know what it means really:
a screaming furnace
and then hot slurp.
you did great they say
not knowing it was the pill.
i bend in half
the party is over.
sometime between dragging another garlic knot into burrata bombed mouth / a border of middle aged men forms around me. / they gather towards my partner with some fresh idea / some new bit to escort whiskey / down throats corroded by meat and talk.
i look up into ruffled necks freshly scraped of hair / as one man begins detailing a girl’s body / she showed up at his house / 4:30 a.m. according to the cameras / and wasn’t there late morning. / i didn’t know he had it in him / dad joyous for son / eyes dismount / face pops off spring. / she was hot.
the others celebrate his son too. / phone is passed around to peek at the early morning recording / and they become cartoon mobiles jangling together: / dad who always carries his library card / dad who worries his daughter will become another Tik Tok corpse / jiggling her ass parts in the custom built bathroom / dad who saves a nutella slice for his mother / wraps it carefully so each rum-soaked banana stays put.
my partner turns to me through the night / a dad too / suddenly a member of the pack / neck vertebrae steadily sways on its track—damn that boy did good!
i get dermal fillers
facial exercises done beneath mask,
i kiss the ceiling for fifteen seconds four times
while helping patrons find books about roman architecture
and still he says i’ve aged
am no longer the woman
he dreamed of.
arriving at the plastic surgeon’s office,
nurses sheltered by polythene palm trees
waft spindly eyelashes
from sculpted black uniforms.
i hold out his metallic Amex card,
my nasolabial folds are photographed
forensic scene of sleeplessness
refilling milk bottles
texts from his ex-wife that warped nights
into inky hellish dimensions.
of what i’ve lost
and in again
near my eye
out i go.
when i come to,
a nurse hands me juice
and his credit card,
aglow now from travel miles.
what beach can we go to
for excessive sun exposure
where blue drinks
with tiny plastic sharks are trapped?
i wonder as i’m escorted past rooms
of women getting fixed.
Tanya Tuzeo is a mother to two children and two unpublished poetry collections “We Live in Paradise” and “Miserable People”. Submitted are poems from the former: merciless observations of our most treasured relationships in a time of environmental and civic decay. Her poems are forthcoming in Wrath-Bearing Tree.