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Poetry

Kory Wells

Kory_SideLook_Close_SqKory Wells is a poet, writer, and advocate for the arts, democracy, and other good causes. Author of Heaven Was the Moon (March Street Press), she’s the principal founder of Poetry in the Boro, a reading and open mic series in her hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In 2017 she was selected the city’s inaugural poet laureate. Her work appears in James Dickey Review, Ruminate, The Southern Poetry Anthology, and other publications. Find her online at korywells.com.

You Are Not Who You Thought You Were

You professed to be a woman
who preferred showers,
but here you are

in a place with only a tub. It is
a nice tub, deep and gleaming white,
solid on four shapely dark legs,

and in considering it, you consider
the likelihood you smell
of smoke from the morning fire,

and so, in the bright mid-day
say you decide to fill the tub
plumb to the rim. Say you strip

your flannel and climb in
the water warm as a lover.
That at first you sit upright

and read your magazine,
but the water licking your legs
works its seduction, and before long

you turn to the shampoo bottle
on the windowsill and say, “Why not?”
That you edge your body first forward,

then down, down, so the water tickles
your ears and your breasts rise
like little islands in the ocean

of all you carry—your worry and hurry
and guilt (which at the moment
you feel not the least, except for

the tiniest bit of guilt that you
don’t feel more guilty). Say that
after a while you say what the hell

and dip your head back and under,
then lather your graying hair,
and for the first time in years—

because showers are loud—
you hear the tiny molecular engine of suds.
Rinsing, say you look at your body—

its fine hairs and fleshy softness,
its paleness riven by dark lines
you usually think unsightly. But now,

tracing your finger along a thigh’s
large vein to branches
of smaller veins, you think, tree

You think, river. You think, I am
creation. I am mystery. Even
mysterious. Who’s to say

what elements are coursing
in those indigo veins?
And now you rise

from the water still warm
and have to resist the urge
to open the window wide

to the icy cobalt wind.
Say you drop your towel
to the floor by your clothes

and levitate to the bed,
damp and naked, and
slip between the sheets

feeling all pink and teal
and tingly. Say it feels like
it’s been hours, but it’s only

noon. That you like your meals
on schedule, but today
you’re skipping lunch.

Say you were wrong
about this tub thing,
and you can’t wait to be

wrong again, because being
wrong feels a little wicked—
lush and wicked and new.

I confess I’ve never been completely satisfied

—in my kitchen, although I love its butterscotch walls and copper spoons, its pressed glass jars

of sugar, the ragged sound of their rusting screw-top lids. The room is too small. I’ve tried on the

words cozy, intimate. Found the fit revelatory. How padded my ribs have become. Bread and

butter, cake and frosting—I confess these excesses, but if you asked, I have some shame. I

confess to affairs of the heart. To loving first one room and then another, for the light, for the

sloping golden oak floors. I confess to an eye that roams, to an addiction for odd dishes and glass

rabbits, for sweetened coffee and books. Of course books. And anyone who reads. It’s true you

still bring me chocolate. But don’t you miss our desire shaking the mirrors on the wall? I’ve

cried for such want, tears like Karo syrup. Call me hopeless, romantic. I’ve become a woman

who adds sugar to beans. I’ve crashed parties for the cake’s biggest buttercream rose. I’ve taken

it all at once in my mouth.
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