Tuesday, April 15, 2003


Ashley Harper

There is a lonely crease
in the naked belly of Jesus,
and in a chapel built by Eiffel
my daughter sees fit to finger it,
to strum the ladder of his ribs
and study loudly her own
navel at his feet.

As unprepared as the newly born
I have found myself unarmed.
Saltine crackers a pulpy mass, wet
cracked juice cups filling my purse.
I am taken prisoner in department stores,
my children shrieking like Apaches.

Like a starveling I pocket cookies,
pour Coke into coffee mugs, a ruse
even a toddler suspects. Again
I am caught with forbidden things,
a mouthful of baking chocolate,
its condemning smear across my lip.

Why has evolution failed us, mothers?
Left us with the slim platform of the hip, the
spinal column weak like a decorator’s fa├žade.
Where is the third arm owed us, the pouch?
Miracle enough to find us pregnant again
with breasts like empty pockets, buttocks full
with gravity like unfilled sacks.

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