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Jessica Manack

Jessica Manack holds degrees from Hollins University and lives with her family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her writing has recently appeared in San Pedro River Review and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She is a recipient of a 2022 Curious Creators Grant.


The nuns taught us that there were three kinds of kisses:
peaches, prunes, and alfalfa. I said, I don’t get it,
and you whispered: Say it out loud.

And I did, slowly, and blushed:
Peaches, pruuunes, al-fal-fa,
my mouth moving in ways it hadn’t moved before.

They wanted us to know the enemy.
They wanted us to fear kisses the way we feared food,
wanted us to find purity through hunger,

and it was true: we were terrified.
But we already knew we weren’t pure,
not after the men had had their grabs,

the ones on the bus, the sidewalk, the sneaky ones, the bold ones.
We embraced, sitting frozen for an hour, unsure what else to do,
ruined by movies, the pressure of theater.

We listened to the beating of our dark hearts,
had tried to cut the dark parts out of us,
so we nursed each other’s wounds and tasted fruit —

the peaches, the prunes, blueberry, elderberry,
the dragon fruit, the kiwi, lime, lychee, the lemons,
the clementines, plums, tomatillos, our tongues delighted, acrobatic.

Done with hunger, tired of denial, we thundered upon each other
and I never thought to ask: how would they know? Just trusted
the sisters, that they knew we were doomed.

Until I asked: What would happen if I told her?
If I weren’t scared of my hunger? What if I let myself be full?
And we ate and it was good.

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