Judith Roney’s fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in numerous publications. Field Guide for a Human was a finalist in Gambling the Aisle’s chapbook contest, and Waiting for Rain won an honorable mention from Two Sylvias Press Poetry Collection contest. Her poetry collection, According to the Gospel of Haunted Women, received the 2015 Pioneer Prize. She confesses to an obsession with the archaic and misunderstood, dead relatives, and collects vintage religious artifacts and creepy dolls. When not playing with dolls, she teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida, and is assistant poetry editor for The Florida Review. www.judithroney.com
I am arguably fourteen-lines born of a woman,
a fatherless-female, a red construction paper Valentine
still folded in half. Open me slowly like a real girl.
Maybe you will be self-luminous I say to the silver
mirror. Maybe you will break like thin twigs
in a Maryland wood.
Maybe you will suffer
I-Love-You addictions, agoraphobia, and fondness
for gin. I tell myself a sonnet cannot get drunk,
but I want to be a wet country and have mingled
sand dune with swamp. Tumbling into a poem
is like rain-sheets covering the bed of hard earth
in some rocky outcrop of land ancestors stoically traveled—
probably the country where everything goes well
because there must be one like that somewhere.
Today the promo-shelves of Michaels are lined
with resin Dia de los Muertos figures embedded
with glitter and paste-jewels, unlike
the thumb-sized edible skulls
of the street vendors I remember in Mexico City
when I was sixteen
When my mother and I left Chicago, just after Christmas,
maybe she thought my grandmother, who did our cooking
and laundry, was fine at eighty-three.
In Chapultepec Park, dark-skinned women sold paper-
maché skulls embellished with feathers, small fabric flowers
and colored-glass beads. Death looked so sweet.
In Cancun, she let me go to a nightclub with a Brazilian
man who gave me cigarettes and whisky.
She didn’t wait up, and I didn’t tell what else he had shared.
Uncle Jack, from California, picked us up from O’Hare.
She just stopped eating
I fell asleep in my bedroom above my grandmother’s, thinking
if she died during the night something of her might float
up the stairwell like a feather rising,
but she didn’t know me anymore,
her small face already a skull.
I think she decided to die, made a conscious effort
of the thing. From this point, looking back,
does it matter?
Maybe it’s the urge some of us have to be alone
when sick or feeling the end,
or in the aisle of the craft store, decades later,
to taste something sweet.