» Poetry

On the Levee Once Again I Walk to Sharpen

my body to a blade. Weapon for nothing. Recall my first diet,
66 pounds, my proud refusal of a fist-sized milk carton.

My mother’s sister at 40, spooning Gerber peaches
into her mouth at the family table. Recall the game

my mother taught me when I was a teenager—
—find someone on the street who has my body—

Now without her how I will sharpen. Will be
vapor. Smoke. Furious at the world for nothing.

Rushing down the year’s dark corridor, street unspooling
every morning, tracking miles.

How I craved my mother’s judgement. Be vapor. Be smoke.
Be blade. Remember how it feels to desire

nothing, not even touch’s static. Remember why
emptiness still comforts like nothing else.

I will shrink myself down to where I don’t matter.
Thumbelina, tight and safe in a walnut shell.

Yet grief thickens everything. Even the imprint of my body.

Who’s keeping count.

Nicole Cooley

Nicole Cooley is the author of six books, most recently Of Marriage (Alice James Books 2018) and Girl After Girl After Girl (LSU Press 2017). Her work has appeared most recently in Poetry, Scoundrel Time, Plume, and Tupelo Quarterly.