GENDERATION

The taut curving underside of a fattened pig

begs to be cut open

it is October again

under a gunmetal sky

the men bathe the body in warm water

brush the hair away thin and gray

and too much like my father’s

 

the skillful unzipping of the stomach

is done by one or another of my uncles

whose sons pull back the skin to find the

tumultuous intertwining of still warm organs

these we carefully collect and separate

 

it is the women’s turn to work

inside the barn we make head cheese

we begin to boil fat for lard

we hold each other’s children

teach the young girls how to clean intestine

 

my father grinds the meat for sausage

and my mother seasons it

dried herbs salt and pepper

together we stuff the casing

drape the long links over wooden beams

 

for the men to carry to the smoke house

as the day is ending we wash it all clean

hands and table tops and knives and pots

the women make dinner and the men say grace

and everyone eats and waits for winter

together

Deus Ex Machina

I was less woman than machine. Then, nothing
stopped my getting through the repetition of children 
and the wash and breakfastlunch&dinner            
and other responsibilities called husband sister sonsonson.
    
I was getting through the repetition
of one day after another—small steps toward death— 
and other responsibilities called mother sister husbandsonsonson
by a sheer determination to move through time.

One day, after another small step toward death,
I woke up and found I had been obliterated
by my sheer determination to move through time.
I could not lift one minute of my heavy future.

 

I had been obliterated— 
with marble eyes, I rolled across the pilling bed sheets
but could not lift one minute from my heavy future.
Instead, my hands took themselves apart.

 

Marble eyes rolling across the pilling bed sheets,
I left the wash and breakfast, lunch, and dinner
My hands had taken themselves apart.
I was less than woman than machine, than nothing.

 

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PAVLOV'S DOGS

In a dream I am walking east on 38th Street,

alone, no cars on the road, no one on the sidewalk,

no one walking or drinking

indiscreetly, no one asking for money at BP, but there are dogs sleeping in the median.

I step off the sidewalk, cross two lanes to them: 

all golden coated and well-groomed. They look soft, I think, and kneel down, to touch.

 

Next to me in bed, you are deeply asleep,

unnaturally peaceful.

I search your face for signs of your waking self.

There is one long crease dividing your forehead into
North and South,

marking the middle, and I struggle through the sheets

to touch its smooth, sleep form. Your skin looks soft, I think and reach for you.

 

I stretch out my hand, and just

at the moment of contact, the mutt wakes up,

barks and bares its teeth. I bolt upright, out of sleep.

Your eyes open on me, and quickly

I withdraw my hand. 

DON'T BAKE COOKIES UNLESS YOU'RE GOING TO SHARE

The forecast said sunny. 65. 
I walked to the library in my black sweater.

It was cloudy. 50, my phone said. 
The library was closed. 

 

I forgot that I was up early today. 
Would blame daylight savings 

 

But we sprung ahead; it’s yesterday’s 7am
And I’m already full of toast

 

Coffee and bitterness 
About how slowly spring is waking up.

 

CUSTOMER SERVICE TICKET NUMBER 066601

I pulled the dead things out of the flowerbeds
The dried up stalks, the brown leaves

I got an email that said the book I requested
Was still not available at the library

The thing about the garden this time of year
Is that even cleaned up it is brown

It’s a $2.00 fine when you don’t pick your book up
Like Be careful what book you wish for

It might cost you a few dollars at the greenhouse
For a bulb a stone that promises to be a flower

In the age of email and Amazon same-day delivery
You would think we could have spring already

The order has been in for awhile.
 

A WOMAN'S WORTH IN FRUIT

Red, tough flesh yells yellow as I pull it apart
in search of seeds, a topping for salad or curry
a spoonful to savor after a meal. She is a fellow
woman, this bleeding specimen whose important
parts I have separated into a glass bowl.
I picture my own worth, spread across the counter,
dripping in its life force, microscopic diamonds,
futures, half-possibilities stored up in a sack
too much like the thin pale skin that separates
clusters of pomegranate seeds. She is a fellow
woman, this delicious winter fruit, shipped in
from holier places to remind us of Jerusalem:
Palestinian men trading in Jewish currency.
Ten shekel a pomegranate, ten shekel to taste
Jesus’s blood. She didn’t ask for this: to be a symbol
of hope, abundance, desire, prosperity,
the return of spring, a mother’s love for her child.
Why does fertility inspire us?
Why is it so desirous?

THE BABY AND THE BATHWATER

you would be amazed
at how my thermometer
for good and bad has


changed how I will stick
my hand into a bag of
bad spinach unfazed


by the smell of rot
the journey back to black earth
is an essential


embrace for kitchen
life I will not punish myself
by pitching a full bag


of precious spinach
I will put up with the black melting
corpses held back


from the grave for a
few green leaves and one
less trip to market

A DISAPPOINTING BIRTHDAY

I said I wanted a puppy which meant
give me something
to coddle

care for
coo over
which meant
I wanted a baby
you see I gave up being christian and feel

empty
with a mind full of measurements

the distance between here
and the next planet
the distance from here

to infinity in every direction
and how a microorganism
living on the barely-there hairs
of my forearm
might be calculating the same
and what a long

miserable

infinity

it is to the ground
I want a baby
for the mind-numbing immediacy of hunger
of lifting a growing body
rocking unspeakable worries
to sleep
kissing brand new skin 

ESAU'S BLESSING

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I dreamt I knocked out a tooth.
Numb from too much wine, I fell 
didn’t feel it 
until sober
when I ran my tongue back and forth 
down the break, the rough valley 
to my gum
a blank
where the tooth had been
and it made me shiver:
disgust and
regret
and a wanting
so desperate and unquenchable
for a reversal 
that it boiled in my stomach
and three goats walked out
all bleating “Rebekah*, Rebekah”
tripping off in different directions
until my mother 
rounded them up,
tied them together
and they were a family.

I awake to the sober truth of myself:
my unproductive nature with women
my reluctance to leave home for even one night

I will forgive you, the will of God
and our mother
who was right.

*Rebekah is believed to come from the root-verb רבק which means to tie up. The name signifies a tying up of livestock for protection, establishment of their home, and to keep them from wandering off. Within the name Rebekah is the notion that individuals are brought together by something higher, more intelligent.
 

NEW PUPPY

Wiggling little thing still tipsy on four legs. Buckles up and topples over softly colliding with the carpet. A happy accident that turns into another nap. He sleeps a lot. And in his moments of stillness I consider him: wet eyelashes dripping nose heavy breathing pink belly rising and falling. Puppies make people happy I remind myself. And yet almost everything about him suggests to me that he is sad. The depressive sigh he makes as he resigns himself to yet another nap. His discontented grunts as he readjusts his position on the puppy pillow I purchased for him. The defeated way he simply stays down on the floor after slipping on the hardwood. I think he is disappointed with me wishing he had landed a few doors down in suburbia where the yard is bigger and they buy the brand name puppy food or spoil wobbly tilts of the head with scraps from the table. But I have sworn myself to the puppy trainer’s take-home materials which are as unloving as my own itching anxiety is contagious. An invisible miasma of mental illness exhausts itself from every pore of my body and seeps into the innocent puppy at my feet. My mom tells me that the dog is starting to stink up the house and Google tells me the smell is a result of the oils he secrets and leaves behind on every surface that he touches. And so I scrub and vacuum bathe shower and spray. I turn the house inside out to expunge the smell. I light candles and incense. I do everything to fix it and don’t fix it. And so the indoors smell like the outdoors and the happiest thing on the internet makes me sad. 

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THE MOTHER-IN-LAW

It wasn’t long ago that I was young,
was careless and sock-footed on the floor,
a book propped on one knee and one leg flung
over the leg of someone I adored. 
The same scene unfolds now where in repose
I once bequeathed my youth to reckless sons
who bent green maple branches into bows
and shot at white men wishing they had guns. 
The girl is sitting on the couch I bought
ten years ago when the boys were like boars,
such wild wile and sweat stink I thought
I’d have to bomb the place to end the war.
The peace that I fought years for is now here,
a gift he softly whispers in her ear. 

WHAT IF WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE MULTIPLE REALITIES EXIST?

It occurred to me because of the way the sun came through the blinds 
in slats of light on weekend mornings in our bedroom 
catching the slow-motion movements of dust 
dead cells that released themselves from our bodies 
to land softly on the sheepskin rug at the foot of our bed 
on matching, walnut, Wayfair furniture
on our house robes and slippers and the Tesla key.
Each streak of light was so distinct, and yet the dust
moved easily between, as if I only had to figure out how to jump 
from this light to the other, from this light to where
we didn't marry, never moved to Washington, and I
pursued art instead of marketing promotions.
If I close my eyes, I can be there, in a townhouse in my hometown 
a 10 minute bike ride from my parents who, in every streak of sunlight imaginable
are tending to their home, the chickens, the dog, the rotting apple tree on the far
end of the yard, busy creating a place for all of us to return to.
In that light I have a crumbling porch with tomatoes growing out of pots 
and some lousy porch furniture I like to lounge on 
until the mesh weave of the chair body is mirrored 
on my sweat-soaked body from laying with a book too long. 
I fill the house with ideas and weekly dinner guests 
and paintings on every inch of every wall, and I paint 
the walls. I paint them rich colors you could fall into: ripe plum and 
stormy turquoise, goldenrod. 
In my house there is often music, my violin and a friend's cello. 
I don't know what we play, but I know that when we sit down 
my phone and Instagram are miles away. I am too absorbed in a life of my own making 
to remember what else could have been in a different beam of light across the universe 
where I married too soon, moved to Washington, and began to wonder 
about the other ways it played out. 
Especially the one in which my dreams set up 
like cooling apple pies you can cut right through and wiggle  
out of their dishes to serve in perfect layers of crust, apple, crust
that beautiful symmetry of sweetness and sameness. 
What if we live in a world where alternate realities claim us?

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QUARANTINE DAY #44

The clematis bloomed today, 

buds like clenched fists slowly released

in one long crescendo down the north fence

until all we could see out the front door

were pale pink palms receiving the rain.

 

You emerged from the second bedroom

making a rare appearance after a video call 

still jolly from the camaraderie with your coworkers 

not an open palm, but no longer the family fist

either, and you saw the new blooms

without my saying anything. 

 

I watched you taking in this new season, 

holding our daughter and cooing to her,

using the word clematis, and I startled

at my own surprise that you had heard me

in the days leading up to this moment.

 

When I thought it was over, our baby

back in my arms, you noticed the storm door, 

that the glass needed cleaning— 

peanut butter fingers, pollen, and the dog’s wet nose.

You went down on your knees 

to pull a rag out from under the kitchen sink

where I keep them, and you scrubbed the spring filth 

off the glass.

ONE BLACK HAIR

one black hair in our marriage
long and sleek and unlike me

upsetting was the word I used 
with you
and though I’ve always tried to be cool
over yeasty friday night 
conversations on love and sex and our
loss in marrying so early
of never knowing any other bodies,
you are cold steel embedded 
in my growing body
the same way chain link is swallowed whole
slowly by expanding tree trunks

one twist. one black hair in our marriage
cut me down from heaven. 

 

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KITCHEN WORLD

one black hair in our marriage
long and sleek and unlike me

upsetting was the word I used 
with you
and though I’ve always tried to be cool
over yeasty friday night 
conversations on love and sex and our
loss in marrying so early
of never knowing any other bodies,
you are cold steel embedded 
in my growing body
the same way chain link is swallowed whole
slowly by expanding tree trunks

one twist. one black hair in our marriage
cut me down from heaven. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
© 2018 Rebecca Longenecker. Proudly created with WIX.COM

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