By Michelle Bonczek


We arrived hungry at the same time.
The last piece of barbeque chicken, roasted
potatoes, and corn cob on her plate. Let me
remind you, this was at my parents’ house.

She wore a priest’s collar, all black under a high
afternoon sun, her long, tussled blonde hair sweeping
over her shoulders with an aggressive casualness,
like a grandfather reading the newspaper

in a delivery room.  Remember, it was July. Her
high-pitched voice was so loud it kept the hummingbirds
from their sugar. I watched their tiny forms perch
in trees until she left. She was my parents’ ballroom dance

instructor. A pastor.  A baker. A singer. A teacher. 
Anything ever mentioned she claimed to be. I once caught
view of her kitchen cabinet lined with rows of vitamin
bottles, prescription pills. Bathroom drawers jammed

with hair rollers. The mirror was stained with lipstick
kisses. Watermelon dripping from chins in her living room,
with a full mouth, she demanded my fiancée and I sleep
in separate rooms, that he sleep on the floor beside her

bed, like a dog, because he was “cute” and she was
“frisky”. My father and she sang harmony into karaoke
machines in my parents’ basement. He taught her
how to paint. In my mom’s kitchen she’d dress

in a gag apron flashing the print of a naked woman,
run around squeezing plastic images of boobs.
Over Christmas dinner where chairs no longer hold
the living bodies of my grandparents, tonight she sits

at the edge of the table where my grandfather used to
break bread. Like a child, she whines, her lower
lip curls down, she swivels her chair right and left,
“please?” And my father gives in to her insistence

that we all hold hands while she prays to her God
under the guise of “we.” “Fuck me,” I say, look out
the window. Deer bow to their salt lick, bird commune

on snowy feeders, the coyotes howl over the field.      

Michelle Bonczek's chapbook The Art of the Nipple is forthcoming from Orange Monkey Publishing. Her poems have been published widely in journals, including Crazyhorse, cream city review, Green Mountains Review, Orion, and The Progressive. She holds an MFA from Eastern Washington University, and a PhD from Western Michigan University. An avid gardener and photographer, she currently teaches writing in Syracuse, NY. 

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