About the (dys)functional poet:
Jenny Sadre-Orafai’s first chapbook, Weed Over Flower, was chosen for publication by Finishing Line Press. Her poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming in: Wicked Alice, can we have our ball back?, FRiGG, Literary Mama, Poetry Midwest, Boxcar Poetry Review, Caesura, Gargoyle, ouroboros review, H_NGM_N, and other fine journals. Sadre-Orafai’s prose has appeared in Rock Salt Plum, in the Seal Press anthology, Waking Up American, and in All Things That Matter Press’ anthology Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages. She currently serves as poetry editor for JMWW and is Assistant Professor of English at Kennesaw State University.
This is Only a Dare
Invite her to go look at carpet with you. In a state two hours away.
You’ll do the driving of course. This is assuming she accepts. Don’t
assume. Not yet at least. Keep your wits about. Make sure when you
say this, when you deliver this invitation in a voice that always quivers
when it catches sight or smell of her, try to focus instead on taking her
by her chin, three of your fingers forming a useful tripod of support.
She’ll need them when you tell her you want to go as friends only. Do
it in person the first time you see her in one month in that bookstore
she still goes to knowing it’s the only one that stocks books you’ll touch.
Then, gently ease her down. We both know this is the kindest thing
you can do, the kindest thing you have ever done for her, this easing.
And let the tripod sort of fizzle beneath her, taking it away like ta-da.
Like jazz hands but with just one hand. Leave as quietly as you can.
Don’t bump into fellow customers and mumble your sorries. Careful.
Since you’ll leave quickly, like you’re magic, she wonders if you really
just did it to her—touched a face that would make its way against
your warm chest nights in a bed you keep too low to the ground
to be good for your back or her back but that you both endured.
When you leave to go home, that’s south of the bookstore, don’t listen
to the radio. You need the quiet to prepare for what’s next. Now, park
the car anywhere—in the driveway, on the street. You can be sloppy now
since you’ve been so careful with her, in that physical sense at least. Next,
get the gin. Don’t act like you don’t have any. You do. Here is the rub.
Take a shot for every time you wanted to take her mouth, let’s say her mouth
like a petal, in yours. Instead of making it, your mouth, some unkempt bow-tie,
ask her to look at carpet you don’t need, don’t want, but had to say because
this is a dare and you don’t say no to those, not when so much is at stake.
Everyone waits for it. Each strand he touched,
shorn. Set free from her soon-to-be prickled head.
Leaving the evidence on the linoleum as reminder.
They’ve seen it before in the movies on TV.
Cars wrecked on purpose and then set on fire.
His hand-tailored suits ride shotgun and singed.
They all wait for the smell of tobacco.
Some habit she starts that’s not associated
with him. Something he won’t know about.
And they listen for it. An inappropriate lover
in inappropriate places. A see-through office,
a loaded train, the toilet in an airplane.
They know it’s coming already. They want
to put both hands on it. Stand witness.
Measure her before and after. Place bets.
The Former Wife Does Penance
Girls are cruelest to themselves. – Anne Carson
She punishes the body that loved him.
Exposes it to too much pop music.
Forces it to wear a cilice and leggings.
Orders it to scowl at itself in the mirror.
Feeds it a steady diet of salt and trans-fats.
Walks it in darkness with clenched eyes.
Tells it to read all the cruel celebrity gossip.
Requires it to wear severe blue eye shadow.
Talks it into swallowing its shameful tongue.
Makes it promise to never say his name again.