As If I Could Warn You, As If It Would Change Things
After 50, like before, you worry
about your body, but more
about its disappearance. You swear,
at some point, you hear
the vibration of the male gaze choke
and shut off like a fan in the night.
You think I’ll get used to that. Besides
every negative mammogram feels
like a winning ticket. A near-miss
you commemorate with sex.
Sex won’t feel the same, but you
suck it up. Every pressure, pull, slip, release
might be the last. Up late,
in the mirror, in moonlight,
you’ll catch your mother’s face.
Remember, you thought her silly.
In her hospital bed, barely able to sip water,
how she gestured and whispered,
insistent that you
draw her eyebrows, find her lipstick.
What I Understood About Being a Milk-Carton Kid, Before there were Milk-Carton Kids
I slept in a pink bedroom
in a princess bed,
with my cousin Juanita I’d only just met.
An older girl. Her body a mountain range
with the setting sun
of the nightlight behind it.
I thought living in the south meant
learning to be okay
with cockroaches — everywhere.
Medjool dates with legs.
I’d watch some, the size of beads
make a serrated line up the wall beside the toilet.
Dad said it was child-napping, not kidnapping
because he was our father, and we went willingly.
My brother left me alone. Our other cousin,
a blond boy his age became his friend.
I owned two pairs of jeans. I liked
the way my butt looked in my Mavericks—
M’s stitched on the back pockets like my name.
There were plenty of books to read.
And I was warm.
No one hurt me there, or tried to
wish me away.
Gladly, I bowed my head to offer thanks
when all the meals were served.
Blackbirds, like shiny boxes, peck the grass.
Sun falls through the kitchen glass and makes fog.
Yesterday, you said the azalea leaves are dry as crisps,
fish bones rattling in the wind.
The squirrels are frantic in wet trees now. Their mouths full
of walnuts fat as hearts turned hard and brown.
Tonight, you’ll be Father Time. I’ll be Mother Earth,
a wreath of plastic flowers in my hair.
November will round the corner soon enough,
like a dark carnival or flood.
For now, though, wet leaves and sun mango the light.
And we are still part young.
Michelle Hendrixson-Miller received her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, where she served as poetry editor of Qu Literary Magazine. Her poems have appeared in Thrush, One, Josephine Quarterly, Poems and Plays, The Moth, Adirondack Review, Still, The Fourth River, Harbor Review, Mudfish, The Museum of Americana,2River View, and others. https://mraehendrixsonmill.wixsite.com/mhmpoems