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Fever Dream in Which Anne Sexton Is My Mother Begging for Her Job
at the Sunshine Supermart After Her Third Reprimand for Tardiness

starched, my lavender blouse
I’ll splay two buttons open
so you sir & the checkouts &
our regional supervisor can talk
weather to the pale sloping
crevice of my breasts

in lulls I’ll heft crates
of navels & marigolds
balanced on my head
like a thewy Congolese
aching through rainforest
mute & kissed by vines

I’ll tell my boy he can’t
keep calling here here is
a place of business stop
crying will be my lone refrain
why don’t you munch pretzels
& tuck yourself in

during my break I’ll mash
all my crackers into crumbs
for a gloomy escadrille
of crows before I lick
rust-crust dumpsters clean
gulping their curdled fumes

I’ll gnash the parking lot’s
one gray elm choking down
every spindly twig see me
swallow its knotted fist
of roots before I fist
the earth into my mouth


Target Practice

On our makeshift range of folding chairs,
of ammo boxes muralled with mallards,
my brother and I steady our sights as best
we can, plinking clips of .22s while flurries
adagio down to flannels father
gummed with sap as a younger man.

We do our best not to jerk our barrels
or anticipate the tiny jolt against
our shoulders—that stuttered hiss
like the final shushing of a boy whose sob
melts to sniffling sleep after fighting
his nightly rite of marching off to bed.

Each round blisters newsprint, blowing
minikin wisps of gray confetti
through the bull’s-eye’s contracting circles—
red, then yellow, an expansive rim
of black. Each sputters into weeds,
into the dark soil our mountain.

When all that’s left is splattered brass
we switch our safeties on and clomp
downrange. Like Hans Brinker we poke
our gloved pinkies through the holes
to ooh and ahh at where the rounds
splintered to lodge inside a wooden post.

Remarkable caliber, my brother says, the .22,
it looks so weak stalled inside a two-by-four—
when Quentin, my bunkmate from basic
laid his father’s Marlin on his tongue
wobbly as it was with his only hand
it was strong enough to do the job.  


Adam Tavel’s first poetry collection, The Fawn Abyss, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2014. He received the 2010 Robert Frost Award, and his latest poems appear or will soon appear in Indiana Review, Phoebe, Redivider, South Dakota Review, Zone 3, The Los Angeles Review, and The Minnesota Review, among others. He is the poetry editor for Conte and an associate professor of English at Wor-Wic Community College on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where he directs the Echoes & Visions Reading Series. He recently received his second Pushcart Prize nomination.