Two Poems By Michele Battiste

by Mark Bibbins, Editor

A Few Words of Appreciation

Thank you for choosing me. Thank
you for choosing to study anatomy, for
differentiating between a fever and a minor
disturbance, a small misunderstanding, a passing
whim. You have a dog and so you can tell
intuitively as well as scientifically. When attention
wanes. When anyone else will do. When a breastbone
is no different from any other breastbone and when
a breastbone will never release you, not until
you’ve gnawed it to shards that scratch your throat
going down.

Thank you for your discretion. Thank
you for the porkpie hat pulled low so no one
can guess which gaze is avoidable. I appreciate
your lack of actualization, your double whiskey
restraint, which is surprising. You’ve not sent
signal, which others may read as disinterest,
but once I had a cat.

Thank you for occasionally sitting
next to me, for the brush of thigh when you shift
away. I snuck my hairclip into your pocket.
It’s cruel to deny the tension, to breathe
casually, to refuse you the rare scent
of encouragement.

Thank you for remembering that I am
not Van Gogh, that none of my body parts
are extraneous, that if I offer you my breast,
the bone is inseparable. And I wouldn’t mind
your teeth on me. If you were so inclined.

Nightcap at Bemelman’s

Lonely isn’t the problem.
The problem is the youth
in the corner wearing white
plastic glasses. He has
lovely bar snacks and I have
no place to sit or to put
my coat. The problem is
it’s my round and the drinks
are seventeen dollars each.
Claudia and Jorg have a
lovely marriage and a live-in
nanny. When I say youth
I mean a man in his late
twenties. I want to curl my
tongue around his earlobe.
Even Jorg can’t get us
a table with bar snacks.
He’s the U.S. president
of some European bank. At
the youth’s table sits a man
in a tuxedo. He might be
Steve Martin. At the bar sits
a woman in a brief black
dress, impersonating. Her
teeth are a poor woman’s
teeth. Claudia rolls her eyes
but Claudia doesn’t
even bother to summer
in the Hamptons. I’ll tell you
a story. My brother in
Daytona at the Boot Hill
Saloon. He flirts. The woman
is drunk. Not attractive. Her
teeth are a poor woman’s
teeth. Her boyfriend, a strangely
polite biker. His leather
vest smells of grape tobacco
and sweat. He asks my brother
nicely, “stop.” My brother clocks
the boyfriend. The problem is
not that the woman wants them
to fight, wants to witness this
strange commerce determining
her worth. The problem is back
at Bemelman’s. Not the youth
who hasn’t bothered. Not Jorg
and Claudia who will find
a place to sit tomorrow
at the next bar. The problem
is the woman at the bar
who has a seat, here, tonight.

Michele Battiste’s work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Mid-American Review, Women’s Studies Quarterly and Verse Daily. Her first book,

Ink for an Odd Cartography, was published in 2009 by Black Lawrence Press. Her most recent chapbook is Slow the Appetite Down (Spire Press). She lives in Boulder where she teaches and studies and wades in the creek.

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