Melissa Ginsburg



The mother dusted daily
a particular kitchen shelf
where the family kept
a jar of poison FOR THE RATS.

The mother could not abide
any creature in the house.
In this way to Ida the lid mattered,
was her friend and her protector.

She took the jar into her childhood
bed so her mother couldn’t poison
the breakfast, yet Ida lay
in fear of drinking from the jar

while she was sleeping. Even
dreams that seemed to concern
other matters were dreams
about drinking the poison

and saving her mother
the trouble. The jar warmed her.
its temperature relative to its level
of threat. Without


my assistance in
helping her see

the significance of the jar
and its contents she would be

lost to all, quite unable
to participate

in normal sexual relations or
to speak

to obtain a beau and marry him

she was a beauty and in
her youth and from

a fine
family respected and of means


Lie in the quilted
dark the padded
room wrap the body
the hump a mound
of fats protecting
sad bed bad start
tardy affection
Warm in your arms
a hard glass jar
Slosh the contents
Bandage every spill
Keep it in
The tempered walls
the heat seal


Melissa Ginsburg is the author of Dear Weather Ghost, published by Four Way Books, and two poetry chapbooks: Arbor and Double Blind. She is also the author of the noir novel Sunset City, published by Ecco Books. Her work has appeared in Fence, Denver Quarterly, Field, Pleiades, Kenyon Review, Blackbird, and other magazines. She has received support from the Mississippi Arts Council and the Ucross Foundation. Originally from Houston, Texas, Ginsburg attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is an assistant professor of creative writing and literature at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.