University of Iowa Press, 2023, 98 pp.
To be able to slouch, to scrape my blackening
Feet over the floorboards, shake the hard music
Out of chain anklets, thick hoops and bangle
Bracelets. My only magic was sympathetic:
I pressed my body into whatever wild hide
I could find—shield of leather, fur, sheltering
Roof of layered wool, and turned animal—
The thick silk a spider hides her eggs
Inside—that was me. Darkening my lids
Larger, coloring eye after eye neon-bright
At my hair’s part, to descend my sides
In a second skin. I repeated. Light and shade
Alternate a body to walk into—glitter and shine
Saved for the parts farthest from the heart.
My thirteenth summer, I was not at home. My mother
Threw away every piece of clothing I owned. I returned
To the closet emptied bare as a breastbone, the whine
And rattle of the empty dresser drawers, sudden
As an infant. I stood inside the air of another woman’s
Inhalation, still and damp. Years after, the only
Path I could strike was more: bricks of skirt rustled
Into turret. I wound bolts of cloth into bandage or soft
Cast or cocoon or habit. I collected dresses many sizes
Larger, dreamed of all the bodies crowded into those
Forms. I strung charms into wristfuls of chime
To move through. My reverse bloom, I drew and tightened,
Grew seamless and unmarred, the scarred parts sealed.
She had told me my need means I would have to return to—
Generations of gazelle bow their slim velvet snouts
To the same opaque crocodile-laced waters, to the clouds,
Light as the roving fleece drawn into fine, strong threads
By the spindle. Inside the billows of rough habits
Of holy women, seers were born whole to brick cells
Slight as their own lost limbs, a spill of matchsticks
On the stone floors. A high window the area of an open
Book to allow a beam of light. A tunnel of gold, streamer
Of air, faint sound, and nothing more.
A corruption of grammar—what knowledge
I have come by comes through the eyes
To my hands—lightning runs the skeleton:
Skull to spine and phalange, dirt, then grass.
I gather what else can be cast: die, a spell,
A glance, lots, off—the lace edge that frets,
Frays, when caught. I keen at the bellow, then
Burn the thick marrow. Mar the smear of kohl
Into a plume of smoke above the burn line:
Hearth-eyes. Left alone too long, my long bones
Curdle into shatter. The gloss works my lips
Into lather. I train a tongue to slaver
At the word meat. I cannot say how this means:
Invisible weaving, the safety net turned sideways
Into snare. The stocking’s run pulls the eye
Elsewhere—warn, then worn, then wear. I trace
The shape to know. I keep want from want.
Silver of hammers, silver of scales. Then gold.
Maggie Queeney is the author of In Kind, winner of the 2022 Iowa Poetry Prize, and a poetry chapbook, settler. She is the recipient of the 2019 Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize, a scholarship from The Ruth Stone Foundation, and the Individual Artists Program Grant from the City of Chicago. Her most recent work can be found in The Kenyon Review, Guernica, The Missouri Review, and The American Poetry Review. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University, and reads and writes in Chicago.
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