There was one who did not return—
the boy in my high school who inhaled gauze
before the anesthesiologist could bring him back
to the same room where they took out
four of my teeth, cotton rolled against my gums.
There must be room for error in every procedure
but I want to know if he heard, lying down,
the light spray of water in his mouth,
or the summer heat that makes it hard to inhale,
heat that stays wrapped up in the lungs.
My sisters give me a lucky pomegranate seed
as if they know how close we are to going under.
Some say luck itself is simple, but have you ever
felt luck unlock wrong, held your hand
against the wall that luck broke down
so you could fix wrong and live with certain losses,
so you could match the groove in every brick
that pinned you to the ground,
luck nothing more but a tongue that moves.
Madeleine Barnes is a poet, visual artist, Mellon Foundation Humanities Public Fellow, and English PhD student at The Graduate Center, CUNY. She serves as Poetry Editor at Cordella Magazine, a publication that showcases the work of women and non-binary writers and artists. Her debut poetry collection, You Do Not Have To Be Good, is forthcoming from Trio House Press in July 2020. She is the author of three chapbooks, most recently Women’s Work, forthcoming from Tolsun Books. She’s the recipient of two Academy of American Poets poetry prizes, the Princeton Poetry Prize, the Gertrude Gordon Journalism Prize, and the Three Rivers Review Poetry Prize. Visit her at madeleinebarnes.com.
For money, Krista Cox is a paralegal at an environmental and insurance coverage firm. For joy, she’s an Associate Poetry Editor at Stirring: A Literary Collection and Executive Director of Lit Literary Collective, a nonprofit serving her local literary community. She serves on the board of the Feminist Humanist Alliance. Her poetry has appeared in Columbia Journal, Crab Fat Magazine, The Humanist, and elsewhere. Her internet hangout is http://kristacox.me.
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