She’s pretending not to wipe away the cobwebs’
ceiling geometries, the gnats
fussing the children’s eyes.
The room’s twin corners lock down.

She’s been standing here all afternoon,
waving her broom like a torch.
She can’t hear the crack of tires on gravel,
revival of the sun’s absent-minded scorch

trumping November as it orbits July,
a pencil eking out a list of things not to do:
the first errand this week neglected
last week. The trouble with night

is morning, she’s singing, wringing out socks
over a tub, grinding salt into the bloody spots.
When her head aches, she can’t taste
the boxed macaroni. When she weeps,

she rubs the lamp’s sinuses and they burst
like a pumpkin coughing up seeds. Simultaneity:
a descriptive term, when she crashes the obligatory
walk and the wall framing

the highway crumbles, but already a figure
neat as a staple gun tumbles ahead, the downfall
of her sister who whispered a name and didn’t stop
running until the matching face shone

on a refrigerator door like a recipe for a sandwich
or an old joke about an idol. I have to get over this.
She’s speaking in rhythm again,
hoarse as her oldest son.

It won’t be the last time he filches money
from her beaded purse. He’s got a voice
like a bellows, a closet muddy with shoes.
She’s pressed his shirt in a book like a leaf.

He sticks like melted rubber to his own hands.
She learns pity that day, and the next,
and then he confesses, and then
she bows to applause.


Author Image

Lisa Lewis’s books include The Unbeliever (Brittingham Prize), Silent Treatment (National Poetry Series), Vivisect (New Issues Press), and Burned House with Swimming Pool (American Poetry Journal Prize, Dream Horse Press). She directs the creative writing program at Oklahoma State University and serves as poetry editor for the Cimarron Review.

Photo courtesy Sarah Kim.

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