Baby in a Box by Ivy Schweitzer

Baby in a Box
Sierra Leone October 2014

All day I maneuver bodies
I cannot touch,
my impermeable suit a shield and bar,
muffling the cries of the baby in the box.

One of the nurses tested it,
not positive,
so we picked it up,
one after the other,
since there was no one else,
starved for touch.

I don’t know who left it in the box––
makeshift cradle
in this makeshift clinic
in this sweltering country
where plague spreads
by touching
especially the ritual touch of the dead
who infect the living mourning them
who are begged not to comfort each other.
It is a demon’s logic.

But here was a bit of miracle,
and one by one we held it in tired defiance
that comfort could be contagious,
rising for that moment
above the box
and then,
one by one, we fell
clenched in our isolate suits,
becoming the ones
no one else would touch––

Poetry Series by Thomas Bosworth

Elegy With Privacy, Please

I was nude, my left leg
numb from sitting
on the toilet. My phone
shook my hand as
cold water leached
the shower curtain.

I read the message and looked
away. Pink mold survived
the third bleaching of the shower
curtain and someone precious
had not. I don’t know how many
gallons I wasted while I waited

to understand the second suicide
in as many years. Not enough
time. I need more
time. Even the pink flesh growing up
the plastic curtain retreated
back down its trellis in that moment

and seemed smaller. Downstairs,
the rattle of silverware discarded
in the sink and the clinking
of plates unstacking and the whirring
rotation of the microwave
wafted passed the interference

of the bathroom fan and shower’s flow.
How can breakfast be prepared
when news like this falls in your lap.
How can water still find its way up
the pipes and out the spigot.
How can I make this body clean.

I should not have juxtaposed
a dead friend and pink mold. But,
grief inhabits language, and
bad news has a way of finding me
when I am naked— it finds
everyone in a scene like this.

At the funeral, a young friend,
a boy scout in his troop,
maybe thirteen, wore
his uniform with merit
badges for fire-starting, first-aid,
climbing, canoeing, and camping.

He helped carry the closed casket.
That is what I hate the most:
The boy with the “lifesaving”
emblem on his chest
worrying about letting down
the boy above his shoulders.

After the ceremony I stopped
by a café for cinnamon brioche
French Toast while an old friend
was being covered with dirt.
I tried not to get syrup on
my tie or my scarf.

He stole my blanket
at a sleepover.
I fell asleep shivering,
clutching a pillow.
I woke up blanketed.
Joe, please take it back.

Artisanal Plate with Bug Bites

Tonight, like most nights, I am porcelain.
I’ve warned others about my fragility.
Bump me into the edge of a table
& I will shatter. Heat me up & cool
me down unnaturally & I will shatter.
If I see a tuition invoice I will fall into
shards & scatter for collection.

But toilets are porcelain and do not shatter!
Well, wise guy, toilets get shit in.
Mention the last boy who did his business—
his tousled dirty-blond head, his goofy
shuffle-run, how he spat my name
onto boiling concrete too hot for dog paws,
spat my name for the last time,
told me he had nothing against “gays”
& shunned my gaze & disavowed
a younger & malleable version of this
while I try to protect myself
with words like “disavow”
& I will spew shit & splatter.

I want to be what my grandmother calls
The Good China. It only comes out
for the best of company—
the preacher & his wife or
father’s business partner,
but I will be more exclusive.
Lock me in a glass case.
Do not eat on me. Do not
look through the glass.
Keep the broom & dustpan nearby.

Let me begin again. Today, I have a mosquito
bite on my forehead like a bloodsucker
tried to assassinate me. Chigger bites
pock my legs & thighs where I was careless in joy
& brushed grass away. It’s a myth that they burrow
into the skin & live inside. They simply inject
their enzymes, feed, & leave. I can’t blame
them. I have been scratching myself
in my room for hours. Someone else
is in the house & I have been a poor host.

In the Abandoned Dillard’s, I Assemble a Person

by pulling my hair off.
I set the brown ball beside the mannequin.
I peel my eyebrows, unplug my ears,
remove my eyes and place them on the dusty tile,
looking up at me (oh, how they itch)
The nose takes some wiggling
but pops off all the same.
Going out of business— everything must go!

Moving down, I unscrew my nipples.
Fingernails and toenails slide off.
The eyes do not have lids and cannot close.
They see escalators whirring softly,
ferrying their own weight, a fountain
watering itself as algae cements wishes
to the basin, and a boy blank.
The penis too— everything must go!

I’m afraid it’s time to peel the skin.
Starting from the navel, it stretches away.
I shake my body and step out of the shell.

I slide skin over the mannequin
and it eagerly receives its new fashions,
extending its arms over its head.
I fasten the nipples clockwise until they click.
Between two legs, I hang the balls and screw
in the shaft. I install the nose
with clinical precision. I blow the dust off
the eyeballs and push them into sockets
and I apply the lids. I blink
and look into my new mirror. The brows
stick on and waggle. Hair slides over
the scalp. The mannequin cannot speak
but he stretches the plastic and skin
into an unpracticed grin.

I am not alone in this Dillard’s!
Featureless, I help him down from the pedestal.
With new sense, he wanders
down aisles, selecting from a sparse
inventory a verdant but faded cardigan,
plaid boxers, short and skinny jeans,
and a pair of hiking boots. He retraces
my steps ignorant and impervious
to the glass wreckage, and emerges
shielding his eyes from the moon’s albedo
into an empty parking lot reclaimed
by roots and weeds and is lost.

After Rosecrantz & Gildenstern Are Dead

We drift down time, clutching at straws.
But what good’s a brick to a drowning man?

The drowning man is good for the brick,
as someone can share that sinking feeling.

The sinking feeling is good for the man
because it keeps him grounded.

If he isn’t grounded, he might flirt
with the barista at Starbucks.

But he won’t keep flirting. The brick’s back.
Sunday is back too, and Sunday is for sinking.

A friend had a dumb idea but no access
to anything but some herbal supplements.

I’m on the phone again. I look out my window
as I talk to his mother. There’s a boy across the street.

He throws a football to himself. He cheers.
He runs a victory lap around the cul-de-sac.

This has all happened before:
the confession, an urgent telephone call,

the strut towards the coffee bar,
revelations on Sunday, guilt on Sunday,

poetry where a friend might die.
(It’s couplets this time).

I’m tired of playing Horatio.
Give me a Hamlet where Rosencrantz

and Gildenstern get married. Where Claudius
is impeached. Fortinbras comes over for tea.

Ophelia goes for a dip in the river. She leaves
the brick with her clothes. The flow is gentle.

She floats on her back, exposed to the sun.
Nobody sees. Maybe she feels closer to God.

Poetry Series by Mia Nelson

the moving through
the most intimate thing I can think of
is two shadows recognizing each other,
that in our most exhausted and bewildered states
I want to sit elbow to elbow in the world’s emptiest room.

that when drifting through the oldness of this place,
whose winds and creaks feel as the most incipient of aches, the most ancient of yearnings,
I want to tell you nonsense jokes and know each of your irrelevant details
here, where the cold pinches my face pink, I want to eat food I am not hungry
for and tell you that yes, love is the oldest, most terrible form of grief

and you me make tragically happy. you make me think:
Yes, we have words for this. I may point at the distance between us
and call it loss. I can laugh during the most inappropriate part of an environmental law lecture
thinking of you and say that love is the ghost & the moving through.

I want to walk down the unlit streets of our home far away from our homes
and teach you, almost, how to do a cartwheel in the dark. I want to call you before
sleep and tell you: you are the stars my city kid hands reach up to, the breaking of
yom kippur fast, the instinctive grasping for my hair, the still unnerving sweetness
of your incessant thank yous, the woods we can walk through and through and still
never miss a moment to say, though not saying, my shadow,
it recognizes yours.

we wake up tangled in a shared joke, sure that something has been harvested.
the warmth of your mouth meanders through the room in as many sleepy,
tumbling leaves. look at your hands. I love your knuckles as they bury me
further and further into the ruddy, fallen branch ground. you (hallelujah!)
and the pumpkin you picked not knowing its worm-rotten center.

ethan. now that the light is stretching her cat spine over the trees,
I need to tell you there is a goose egg on my forehead from
kissing too quickly, running into each other like we’ll never get close enough.

the window is iced and autumn looks in
on us like the last two remaining whole things.

we do not talk about it except before sleep, how you will never be
able to hold my hand without looking over your shoulder. how you
are always five minutes late when I am always five minutes early. the
zinnias are wilted, the vase you picked has broken its skinny, glass neck.

but if you asked it, I would forget that our season is almost up. the inbetween.
our fall, our falling into, our falling apart. lovely boy, can you not feel
the weather turning its heavy, honey tongue?

yesterday you did not recognize me in a red sweater under our
pitted, copper sky. it is so much harder to see someone as the
world curls in on itself. we know too much about the outside,
how when we crawl back together under orange sheets
some bit of the cold comes with us.

the leaving
today I lift you from the dead. in the orange bed where
you tapped rhythms from the songs we listen to in the dark
on my skin. in the night hours I spent listening to your body
sure that the inherited bicuspid aortic valve in your chest would suddenly
break. on the shadowed hill behind the library where we
lay on wet grass and spooked easily at the sound of breaking branches.
in the linoleum staircases I took your calls in. in the heart-room I keep every touch you gave me.

I resurrect the ridiculousness of your hands unscrewing every other light
bulb. I unbury you and the song you sang for me without hesitation. holy,
holy, holy I am building you again from the math lecture where you held my
hand and the jokes you tell even with your tongue in my mouth. I am remembering
the things you tried to teach me: the perfection of the number seventy-three or (listen)
that the human heart is about the size of two fists. you, the boxer in my dreams, curled fingers swinging
towards me like too many red wings.

this is the last love poem, I promise. this is the last love poem that is also a
terror poem. because my writing teacher tells me I am not allowed to use “you.”
I must separate the object of love from your name. imagine. that the dinky a christmas story lamp
on your bedside exists without you. that the circles you traced on the most laughing parts of me were
merely the wind’s work. I can not render you from my words as easily as I can render you from me.

we are not equipped. I will never believe that you like me more than you like that I like you.
may my professor forgive me for this grave work, but I have put my heart in the choking purple earth.
the do-not-call me. the soon and sooner. I am hurting you so you do not hurt me more. I am taking the
knife edge of our warm sleeping and showing you how to bleed. how do you like my running away?

would you un-ask my name? would you un-love me? would you forgive me if I tell you the truth?
your hands are too small. they can never hold what I am afraid to give. this. this is my greatest fear:
that you might only ask me to come back once.

When Your Eyes Spoke Love by Magdalene Pizzo

The air filters bright through thin clouds
Forces eyes to squint at you: a knee poking up from late-afternoon grass, a hand ruffling fur
tipped gold among blades tipped gold.
I feel the hollow of your presence, scooped from inside and transplanted perfect full-
formed piece of me no longer.
I miss that pressure, the heat of your hands.
I miss the way your eyes smile in the sunlight; my sunlight.
Call together scattered faces, turn away before you look up, swallow choking breath to
I am not there; I am within myself
dizzy, organs coiled so heart lies sick in stomach, lungs forget to pulse, brain beats for them

That other patch of grass under the trees, fingers pressing into cinnamon dough
Molding it, oozing it between fingers, cool, cooling sweaty palms.
It is salty, sucks moisture from the creases, latches, leeches, leaves fingers tingling with
want of water.
Bend it into the shape of your voice.
Imprint the pressure of your heavy love, tying intestines, choking lungs, beating heart.
My fingers are sticky and sweet-smelling: your collar in September.
I bury my nose in the webbing
Shut my eyes on dappled sunlight, open them in the memory of sweaty hands and organs

in the key of cigarette smoke by James King

You set down your suitcase and light the Root on the curb,
On a corner of two streets where you don’t want to be,
Cold day done and gone.
The sun sets slowly and dark night rises as you droop,
Drag and drain into the pavement.
It’s cold tonight.
Your eyes begin to close as you breathe in the smoke,
Feel the fire in your lungs,
Expel the note. A single wobbling cloud waits in the dark for the chord to be completed.

The second comes and goes unceremoniously,
A chaser for the root, a tone that means nothing
But another step higher and a little more tar in your lungs.
The third, though, you reach into the pack eagerly. This is the one. You light it and break the peace
With smoke and sound. It ripples off the tenement steps, the fundamentals of a broken chord,
An arpeggio of arsenic in your nocturne of nicotine.
An ember burns at the tip of your lips. It’s minor.

You cannot choose the fourth over the perfect fifth, try as you might.
So you light the fifth alone and a tear leaves your eye as the chord sounds,
Smoke sweeps over the streets in the shape of soul music.
You cough.
You try to light the fifth, to paint the street a different shade than blue.
It sparks once and dies. You throw it in the gutter, where it lands in a puddle and turns your
Reflection into distortion.
You think about changing the instrumentation but from Pall Malls to Marlboros it’s all just smoke.

You keep on to complete the scale and light the sixth on the curb.
You listen to the note, watch the inky liquid dance in front of a yellow streetlamp
And wonder where all the headlights have gone.
An old man walks past and bums the seventh off of you.
He’s rickety as a rocking chair and grins at you through crooked teeth, grey tombstones,
Blows the seventh in your face and sours the tone of your menthol melody.
You quickly realize that the music is no longer giving you the same buzz it used to.
You’re tolerant.
The old man takes a bite from the sunset and offers you a piece. You take it.
It tastes like nothing.

So you light the Octave in silence.
The last light has been eaten up, but you know it’ll be back tomorrow.
And so will you,
Eating the dying light and harmonizing in the key of cigarette smoke.

hospital series by Meara Maccabee

did you know that in hospitals, when you’re paralyzed,
they wheel you to a room with a floor drain
and hose you down?


i sat in the hospital bed next to my mom.
i didn’t want to, because she smelled like hospital and she seemed different than before,
but my dad said it would make her feel better.
she couldn’t feel the left side of her body
and i was sitting on her left side
and before long she was leaning against me
and my body was being squeezed between the hard plastic bed rail and the body
of my mother
but i didn’t say anything. if i did,
she wouldn’t be able to sit up herself anyway and
my mom hates being embarrassed.


the nurses say you’re not allowed to bring pets into hospitals,
but if you’re careful, you can sneak four large dogs into the elevator and up to the seventh floor.
the lady who can’t speak anymore will cry and pet the collie.
her daughter will say she used to speak five languages.
she was a linguistics professor at the university.
now she cries to the dog in silence.
the dog is patient with her. the dog does not expect her to speak back.
she pets the dog and the dog invites her wordlessness.
she does not have to point to her notepad and underline the sentence:
“i can’t talk; i had a stroke.”


once i asked a nurse if they give fishnet stockings to all their patients
because my mother’s legs were so dry and the cracks in the skin
looked like the stockings from Hot Topic i was never allowed to buy.
i swore i could smell the fish on her skin.  


i feel like a bad person when i don’t want
to hug my mom. i remember i loved her hugs before she got sick.
maybe she still smells like hospital.
maybe she never really got better.
maybe before-hospital mom is gone.
maybe she’s not even my mom.

maybe i just don’t like hugs anymore.


the speech therapy rooms in hospitals are small.
the physical therapy rooms in hospitals are big.
which is weird, because in my thirty-nine days of informal investigations,
i saw a lot more tears in the speech therapy rooms.
lots of yelling during physical therapy, mad yelling and happy yelling,
but energy, at least.
in the speech room,
mostly just stuttering or silence.
silent tears. sad tears.
hopelessness like that needs space to breathe.