The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Convert’s Heart is Good to Eat by Melody S. Gee

This selection, chosen by guest editor Shlagha Borah, is from The Convert's Heart is Good to Eat by Melody S. Gee, released by Driftwood Press in 2022.

Mother Tongue

A chrysalis vibrates in you
but will not erupt wings.

Your teacher thinks
the butterfly is coming

any day now. I tell you
the child’s name.

Your chrysalis says impossible.
You learn to call her something

else. Your mouth
an utter betrayal.

A surgery will untie
the infant’s tongue so she
can milk.
A mutilation for
unfettered quenching.

A caterpillar’s DNA does not
exit the cocoon. Wings form
from the soup of the old body.

The shell carries a name.
But what do we call
the cauldron inside?

In every throat the passage for air
closes when food nears.
We cannot consume and
respire, we cannot take in
all at once.

Wings heave in brute escape
from the self-spun womb.
The new creature is not
a version. A few
nectared months,
a flight of milkweed,
a life.

Not everything that trembles
your tongue or your throat
is a voice.

Melody S. Gee is the author of The Dead in Daylight (Cooper Dillon Books, 2016) and Each Crumbling House (Perugia Press, 2010), winner of the Perugia Press Prize. She is the recipient of Kundiman poetry and fiction fellowships, two Pushcart Prize nominations, and the Robert Watson Literary Prize. Her poems, essays, and reviews appear in Commonweal Magazine, Blood Orange Review, Lantern Review, and The Rappahannock Review. She is a freelance writer and editor living in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband and daughters.

Shlagha Borah (she/her) is a poet from Assam, India. Her work appears in Salamander, Nashville Review, Identity Theory, Longleaf Review, Variant Literature, Rogue Agent, and elsewhere. She is pursuing an MFA in Poetry at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and is an Associate Poetry Editor at Grist. She has received support for her work from Brooklyn Poets and Sundress Academy for the Arts. She is the co-founder of Pink Freud, a student-led collective working towards making mental health accessible in India.

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