ower is the Nurse of Luxury, slim-stopt and snow-shot, pressed into pram
and Ritchie-mask. Already much she wants for bread is in her bones.

Nurse, are you a daughter or a wife? Was your mother a woman
of the system? Can you distribute top hats and pin pink shower curtains?

Often, the water runs while our fingers are still pinned to our sirs. Calm and cross
your ankles, Nurse. Know yourself… Do you change shapes

in the bath? Sprawling stalks, greening stalks, suckets of stalks, all of us.
So Nurse, take mine, girl tabs and man cuticles, two fingers

to the wrist. I may pulse for power, you may press for nothing.
I will demur and act sleepy provided no needles come to play.

And let this post a warning unto her, that she shelve small practices,
and announce her intentions before she proceeds to bowl or platter.

We have a monotonous diet, but gilding for pills. Our successes lead sisters from
one continent to the next, out of countries and into towns,

on long journeys aboard grey, fall-slate steamers, lugging trunks
and panting, plasticware in their pants pockets, lurching—

we all hate pants! And it’s okay: We hide our cavities behind snares
and tension. Nurse, you need to seem like you care! I have bitten

and kicked at only a piercing. Assure me: the records will keep until I drop to
pieces. Fold our napkins into fawns, fold our napkins into yawns,

sew songbirds so we might hear rustling and argent light… anything to nudge
the scale. What would you do for an unlocked door? Four walls and file cabinets

fortify our attack. Nurse, your shoes are faire-water and pointy. Nurse,
your hair is flat. Nurse, we see your heart in your eyes and it’s slimy.

So Nurse, take mine, girl tabs and man cuticles, two fingers // to the wrist.

Joanna Novak

JoAnna Novak is the author of I Must Have You (Skyhorse Publishing 2017) and Noirmania (forthcoming from Inside the Castle 2018). She has written for publications including The New York Times, the Washington Post, Salon, Guernica, and BOMB. She received her MFA in fiction from Washington University and her MFA in poetry from University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is a co-founder of the literary journal and chapbook publisher, Tammy. She lives in Los Angeles.