Sick Like a
I want to unwind the coilings of your stomach. Stretch all the places I have marked you with the broke between my fingers. You are too young to have this much worry. Sweet organ meat, precipice of sour. I sop you up with bread and churn the butter of your childhood. Do you remember the cows? The soft velvet nose in your hands and the flies in my hair. We didn't have the right shoes so we sunk into mud that was mostly shit but it smelled so good, as if the slow chewing of cud could make us better people. We climbed hay bales and remarked on the love life of corn. Here, a wooden spoon. There, a chicken with her neck exposed. She is also not wearing the right shoes and she pauses at the scent of us, scratching. I keep a fox body in my underwear so I can pull out a long tail and rub it up and down the fence line like I am the worst mother you have ever seen. Sick like a patient, sick like a sneeze, sick like the origin of dog. I have no story, so we throw up all the words and they scatter into the fields where fathers dig up potatoes and vines grab old people by the ankles. Sweetie, we are all being pulled down. This farm that we paid three dollars to walk through cannot hold us. You are ill of stomach but at least we have this day, our arms full of gourds, not a carving knife in sight.
I Took a Thousand Pictures of You
You always thought you looked fat and I thought you looked like enough. Like, maybe you were sturdy enough that I could move without worrying the house on stilts would fall. Like, you aren't a pig and we are both into screwing wolves. The howlers, the ones who blow and blow and blow. Turns out you don't enjoy my crass, so I cut flowers from the garden and clean all the vases so that shadows don't catch in my hair. I think when I am loving, I look like a plane crashing. People are screaming, you don't want the ground in your face. You want to stay up in the rafters of our house, even though we are both scared of spiders. There are just some things I won't do; kill what I am afraid of or cut squash or pretend I can't see what you are thinking. I can tell squash is not meant to be cut, not because I speak with vegetables or read cooking magazines, I don't, but because one night I took a squash off the vine (the last time the garden let me grow one) and I walked it over to the rock that holds up your steps. I held it above my head
like a man with a baby on a movie poster. I used all my strength to throw it down and it cracked open, all seedy and slick, the most beautiful orange. The kind of orange that Frieda would put on a table next to a pomegranate or that turmeric orange used to dye the robes of monks. If you want, I will bring you squash like that, and you will see that my plane
crashing is the only way I know how to get down.
Frog Baroque for a Girl King
Let's start with a come on line: Do you want to eat in this restaurant of a love poem, because I want to bury you up to your waist in sand so that you can't leave. Have a seat, over here, where you can see the water. When the tide starts coming in, I'll dig you out and we can catch octopus together, our hearts will never break. We know the technique. We saw the video. You just unravel the heart and in the middle of a tornado is a vortex. They describe tornadoes as violent, but you know, planes crashing, to each his own. My very first job was busing tables. They would pull out baking sheets from the oven with neatly arranged rows of frog legs. It made me sick how vulnerable the legs looked, mid jump and recklessly sexy which made me want to vomit. I like my job of keeping you in the sand, releasing you every night. We can watch the moon slip sideways on the water. Nothing on the beach can harm you. I will bring wool blankets, a basket filled with meats, cheese and three types of jam. Fig, berry, marmalade. I want to crush fruit in your mouth. I want to lick your face like a dog. I want to lap your tongue till you forget the celestial workings of the waters getting higher and higher, I can't clear the dishes fast enough and the frogs are croaking and dancing the Ballet de la Nuit. This is my hot girl summer. I have become King of Kidnapping with my paper crown doused in rubies, but you love it. I wouldn't keep you if you didn't, not even to prove a point.
(she/her/hers) is a writer, parent and educator in Northern California on unceded Coast Miwok and Kashaya Pomo land. Gray is the author of "Instructions for an Animal Body" (MoonTide Press, 2021) and the audio chapbook "My Fingers are Whales and Other Stories of Cetology" (Moon Child Press, 2021). She is the recipient of the 2022 Neutrino Short-Short Prize from Passages North and Creative Sonoma's Art Surround Grant and Cohort Training. Most recently Gray's writing appears or is forthcoming in Northwest Review, Passages North, Menacing Hedge, Newfound, Pithead Chapel, Driftwood Press
and Under a Warm Green Linden