A Space for Women of the World
San Francisco, California
To braise a heart requires a kind of calm
about cruelty. She wrings out her tears
from a white kerchief, into a pot
that swayed above her head, whistling,
as if caught by a breeze. How the ears
will ease their burning after each fat
lie. How the eyes will steady their hungry
fire on her. No need for the briny bite
of fish sauce or shrimp paste; the tears
and shake of juniper berries are enough.
It’s past midnight, and the water wails
on the stove. Husband will soon come home
stinking of hard work and damp dollars.
How close his bones softening in the broth.
Insatiable suck and chill of marrow. How he’ll
stick, a piece of gristle she’ll tongue for days.
How he’ll sing between her teeth.
When the girl wore the fake, tortoise-rimmed glasses, she was sixteen, flunking out of confirmation classes. A fetus sat on her salted palm and no one in class liked that. The teacher’s tongue shriveled like a slug on the pavement. The mercy of a cruel drink. The tipped Morton canister. The pews moved into color, the Priest’s glasses reflected vibrant stains and for the first time, she could see the crispness of his egg white robe. The wafer he held above his head and cracked in two.