Three Poems by Trina Burke
What could you even say
if I ate my son for breakfast?
The taste of him a nothing, like water.
There comes a time in every mother’s
life when she tires. Or is it hungers?
The simple arithmetic of abundance
can be miscalculated to tragic
consequences. If I’d had
the presence of mind
to admit I’d never found
him on the ground. It was a lie
I told consistently. I’d
never wanted children. I’d wanted
a cat once, a stray Tom.
Easier to feed and tastier.
I made a mistake in haste.
You might be kind. Tell me
it could happen to anyone.
I might be contrite.
I might apologize.
This family likes to hang things.
Counts generations by tree rings.
Geraldine presses bobby pins
into green foam orbs, arranging
fake bouquets by tying twine.
No two flowers alike.
She drags the three-legged chair
that hobbles and wobbles and tries to bear
the weight of one small pair of legs
before it falls, shatters like egg
shell with her dangling midair.
All the king’s men couldn’t retrieve her.
Her limbs form a constellation:
Cassiopeia, or the stations
of the cross. Her siblings pray nightly
their souls to take. They are righteous
out of fear. They’ve heard stories
told to scare and they hold morning
very dear. Meanwhile in the closet, Geraldine
is fingering the gabardines.
There was a George and a Jane and then a Mary
then not a Jane but a Carlie,
or maybe first a Carlie then not a Jane
and sometime went the Mary again
but certainly there was always a George
and a land that led to water.
Grandfather presented Sonja with a fish scale
and a kiss for her 8th birthday.
The scale went up to 25, more than enough for bass.
What if I catch a 75-lb. fish? She asked.
Weigh it three times, he laughed.
There is a lighthouse at Sebastien
Inlet and it is red and black—the first
discernible colors to the human eye. Lovers
run aground like tiny turtles confused and attracted
by the pulse-wink gesture: go away, come back.
Under the refraction only so much dust and shadow
floating through the beam, through the window
at 3 o’clock to silver the pillow. Rough silica underfoot
grinds through jawbone, rattles the gumroots.
The light is only golden off every other grain.
Friction wears to redness flesh that will not give way.
Multiplication is simple, Grandfather explained.
5 x 5 = 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5
Exponents are similar, he noted:
103 = 10 x 10 x 10
Later: Headlights from the car
doing doughnuts in the parking
lot. The show’s starting. The Chevy’s tires
roll over asphalt. The dog recognizes
the car by the sigh of the engine
as it disengages. Wags, stretches.
The lovers embrace.
Slipknot, pull, break.
Trina Burke is the author of three chapbooks–“Wreck Idyll” (Dancing Girl Press 2013), “The Best Divorce” (Alice Blue Books 2012), and “Great America” (Dancing Girl Press 2011). Her work has appeared recently in Beecher’s, Qu Literary Magazine, The Pedestal, and The Nashville Review. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana and lives in Seattle.