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The Grail of Perfect Hunger

From self-knowledge thou wilt gain hatred of thine own fleshliness
—Catherine of Siena, in a letter to Monna Alessa dei Saracini


Katie is trying to eat
and French-braiding the lavender
mane of the horse
she keeps at her place
on the dining room table
in the specter of so much
rice and meat
this calms her


We are licensed to
reach our arm into each of your
sleeves and socks
pass your uncapped lotions
among ourselves

to vote
on giving you back
permission after a week
to latch your door

you must at all times leave your singing voice
within earshot

the moon you refused is now the frozen orange
you have been given to grip
against this unbearable

and while you are making
your umpteenth collage of pieces
of what you have been
allowed to keep
after you finish
your ten o’clock yogurt and pear

you will be called away (you knew
this was coming) on random
days of the week


o stillness at dawn o sleepwalking
groomless bride

o vanisher into the shadows of health
and the bosomy averageness
of lilacs

was it you

who left the pretend mother-
of-pearl brush on the bureau
next to mine the sweatshirt
slouched like a drive-by victim
over the chair back

the pills exhumed
during room checks
from under my mattress

was it you
who imagined the paper mirror
in which I find my face
now sketched by a practiced hand
for once with a decent pencil

who left
your cider-taste name
hidden under
my famished tongue

and the prayer glint still on my lips


no these are
my eyes my nose my mouth
o hussy of death o familiar
whose Goodwill sundress strap has fallen again
from the cliff of my shoulder
exposing that glare
of attempted breastlessness

no this is
my chin my jaw the very bones I wanted
broken and I had just the hammer
to do it


they give you a lovely journal
Japanese woodcut on rice paper
but you came with only
exact forbidden words
and so you record your spiritless
comings and goings until the dream
descends on you its great flap
of blank paper worse than the wings
of an angel gone insane
with pure sorrow for you
tearing his plumage out
feather by lackluster feather
and you scramble among
the shadows you know now
are of your own making
trying to find a pen you dig up
an ink-smudged toothbrush
mascara wand one of your mother’s
knitting needles but never
that simplest of implements

this is recurrent and still
the book floods with
the panicked rending
of blank, blank pages


this is my body
as it will be from this day forward
done with shampoo
done with the good silk scarves
done saying sure there is always
that now isn’t there
done agreeing done returning
your call done seeing
how easy that was

cleansed and sullied again
bog of lost arguments burial mound of birthdays

you had thirty minutes
to finish your sandwich and all
of your m&ms
we talked about this
now you have five

desert of questions to which the terrible answer
has always been yes
alley of known assailants
kindly shade tree
and the factual courage of lifting
the plum of my choice from the basket
that has always centered the sun
on my lover’s kitchen table


Welcome me now
as an old woman finally beautiful
to no one

up into my own
abounding absence
for I hear the fog freezes
before it allows itself
anywhere near the taut little throngs
of snow-green blueberries

FrannieLindsayFrannie Lindsay’s newest volume Our Vanishing is the 2012 winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award from Red Hen Press. It is forthcoming in spring 2014. Her other titles are Mayweed (The Word Works); Lamb (Perugia,) and Where She Always Was (Utah State University Press). She won the 2008 Missouri Review Prize and has held NEA and Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowships. Her work has appeared in The Yale Review, The Harvard Review, Salamander, The Atlantic Monthly, Field, Prairie Schooner and Crazyhorse, among others. She is also a classical pianist. She resides in Belmont, Massachusetts. www.frannielindsay.net

© 2014 The Antioch Review