My mother came home with her uniform on and a line where the hat creased her
forehead. When she saw that the wall was alive again she went to get the vacuum. I
was standing on the table on my toes to get a look: the gap where they came in was
like the seeping of a wound. All day I’d watched them trailing in, their quiet
congregation. I liked the pattern of their backs. A red that softened everything.
Soon she was behind me with the phone against her neck. No, she was saying as she
plugged the vacuum in. The less real power that he has, the more he’ll try to use it. She
handed me the nozzle, went into the other room. I held the sound outside myself
and sucked their bodies up.
How saints in old oil paintings hold
an emblem of their death, the instrument
of passion like an ordinary fact. Agatha holds
her severed breasts. How the arrow meant
to pierce the side
is already lodged in the side.
My mother gave up both her breasts
and the hourglass turned over.
Her sutures healed while I grew hips,
broad nipples that twinged to cover —
tenderly, the edges of the flesh
Michaela Coplen is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Oxford. She graduated with a BA from Vassar College, where she served as poetry editor for the Vassar Review. Her poems have been published online with The Atlantic and Poets.org, as well as in the Bellevue Literary Review and Up the Staircase Quarterly. She won the 2019 Troubadour International Poetry Prize and the 2020 York Poetry Prize, and she was included in the 2020 Best New Poets anthology. Her debut pamphlet is forthcoming from ignitionpress this year. You can see more of her work at: michaelacoplen.com
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