A man once said, you can tell
a lot about a woman
by her groceries;
A woman once said, it’s easier
to be smaller & covered in make up
than it is to live big.
A man once said, humans
on Manhattan put our their hands
to grab a yellow cab
expecting magic to transform
their bodies like Photoshop
in neon white like
attacking pregnant hands;
I want more weight in my belly
so even when you take
I’m still here.
A woman says, I don’t want
to be the girl everyone wants
to fuck anymore.
A man says, I’m a writer
but I don’t keep a journal because
I want to erase everything
every seven years my molecules
molt new DNA like a new pair
of Jimmy Choo’s.
A woman says a private life
is not a life lived. There’s a book
that will make my face
immortal, plastered all over
the internet. New York is built
over old demons, fossilizing a world
that no longer exists.
A man says, I thought women
were smart enough to Google
I thought she’d be smart enough
to notice a puncture wound,
understand nothing miraculous happens;
women used to smell sweet
like summer peaches until they
start to rot.
NOTE TO MY UNBORN DAUGHTER
You will drowse as the evergreens
that grow outside of your grandmother’s
out of a mother. One day, you will
ask me where you came from:
a woman with a belly full of ceramic
knives. From a man who has been missing
since he was born. As soon as I wake
you will be gone—
the heart’s a slow beat—your finger
will pull a trigger, your once tiny hands
sniffing for some outside, some new way
of undressing. You’ll come back when
you are old enough to write a love scene,
after you have recklessly driven
across the country with your body
as an afterthought—knowing I will always
be your great love.
RACHMANINOFF’S PIANO CONCERTO NO. 3 IN D MINOR, OPUS 30
You were uglier than I expected,
a jackal bent over a reptile carcass
smelling like urine & spoiled milk.
Sex is the closest our bodies
can touch where ruin also exists.
You claimed I ruined you as bad
as a god. You chose to be
in that bed, an empty sack branded
contagious. I was the one to fill you—
five paragraphs, one tank gasoline,
loneliness greater than the sum
of your parts full.
I dug my fingers up your dress
to find your ruin: you weighed
Joanna C. Valente is a human who received her MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press). Some of her work appears in The Paris-American, The Destroyer, The Atlas Review, El Aleph Press, La Fovea, The 22 Magazine, and others. In 2011, she received the American Society of Poet’s Prize. She founded and currently edits Yes, Poetry, and is the Copyeditor and a staff writer for Luna Luna Magazine. She resides in Brooklyn, New York. More can be found at http://joannavalente.com.