by stevie edwards
ODE TO JOY
(Or to an Avocado Smash Artisanal Toast)
That is my theme for today: to be “imund,” to be unclean with joy.
I can say with a certain degree of confidence
the remains of a beautiful avocado are decomposing
somewhere in America while elsewhere bellies cry out
for the good fat of avocados. I once held my brother
when he was still new, slack-necked & soft-skulled
& thought it was beautiful how much he needed me
to be kind. Today I stepped over the exploded insides
of a lizard I cannot identify in terms of taxonomy
but can identify as having died in a way that suggests
a glint of cruelty propelling the earth along its orbital path.
For many years it was believed that vaginal wetness
in females of the human species was alarming,
symptomatic of womb congestion that caused hysteria.
It was believed that women weren’t made to receive
pleasure, that to need pleasure was insane, but
it’s 2017 & I can order a latte & a slice of garlic toast
adorned with the smashed flesh of an avocado
for $8.00 from a Bank of America checking account
with my name on it. Maybe never a room of my own,
but a small table near the back of a coffee shop
& set of headphones. Maybe a handsome barista
makes eye contact long enough to remind me
I have a body but not long enough to worry me
about the weaknesses of its borders. Maybe I’ll have
garlic breath all day but at least I have tasted
the earth’s best stinking. At least I know the name
of this pungent ghost I’ll carry with me from meetings
to a half-empty bus to a mattress made of memory
foam. At least I have made this one messy choice today:
O Green Goop,
once I asked an ancient philosophy professor
how much choice humans have & he looked grave,
shook his head: very little, there is very little choice left.
America tells me I need a manipedi, but I don’t want
a stranger to touch my high arches. It would be too much
pleasure to have in public, too many nerve endings
shaking my whole body with a painful laughter. I am afraid
that whatever is rotting on the sidewalks in America
is going to stay there, unwashed & rancid.
I’ll have to learn to love its ruined guts or not go outside
myself. At the edge of cruelty, what is it that keeps us
supporting weak necks, devising new concoctions
to make bread more desirable, spreading manure
over the gangly toes of corn? Let that be what rules me.
In dreams the wedding is disorganized,
& this is the problem:
nobody can find the woman in charge
of catering, a shortage of vegetarian entrees,
forks, gaiety. The cake, all wrong, gaudy
metallic roses, none of the promised
chocolate beneath the icing’s bling.
My dress is worse off: too poofy,
bedazzled. The groomsmen, bare-butted.
In dreams, a wedding. No starving bear
of a job market, no freezes on partner hires.
In dreams we’re the kind of people
who can agree to futures with joint
bank accounts & matching aprons
or underpants, matching permanent
addresses. A Showcase Showdown,
I’ve shopped ‘til I dropped, decorated
a house from ceiling fan to doormat
in dreams. In this dream the failed death
five years ago knocks on the door
& says, Sorry lady, wrong house.
Sorry I was looking for someone else.
In this dream nobody I love, not you
& not M, finds a body without
its tenant, a broken lease of sorts
with whoever tends the after
life. In this dream no drown song
hovering, no dogs barking at my body’s
lousy smell-poem: all soap & dry
& no human salt-musk. In this dream
I can promise to keep a still house,
can guarantee there’s no banshee
coming for dinner. There are new endings,
endings I haven’t already tried on
& worn around the hospital wishing for someone
to bring me clean clothes. Here is my hand,
my gallons of blood that chose to keep rushing me
into today. I almost missed this:
your breath on my neck. I’ll take it. I do, I do.
Stevie Edwards is the founder and editor-in-chief of Muzzle Magazine and senior editor in book development at YesYes Books. Her first book, Good Grief (Write Bloody, 2012), received the Independent Publisher Book Awards Bronze in Poetry and the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Her second book, Humanly, was released in 2015 by Small Doggies Press, and her chapbook, Sadness Workshop, was published by Button Poetry in January 2018, having won their 2016 chapbook competition. She has an M.F.A. in poetry from Cornell University and is a Ph.D. student in creative writing at University of North Texas. Her writing is published in Crazyhorse, TriQuarterly, Redivider, West Branch, 32 Poems, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere.