You are in the diode archives diode v7n2



Shame, Abridged

Walk a circle of salt
around the bed. A handful
of leaves or feathers.
This is how we hide
every moment we lived in the ground. 


When shame becomes your phantom hand that digs its nails into its fist.
When you move it like a muscle just to feel your skin tighten.
I was thirteen. I stood calf-high in meadow grass. Two high school boys,
counting each pixel of flesh as I peeled the fabric from my body.
Become a worse animal. Let your quills pin their eager hands to the dirt.


Here, my armor: a plate of bone beneath my breasts
and your weight on top of it. Your wife and kid waited at home.
But I could feel them, too.
The ceiling fan, turning and turning over,
always above you.


I am the yarrow at your heel, leave your starved with me.


Your chest rising the way a bow draws an arrow.
I want to teach this song
to the children we won’t make.


A lover said, You can’t make me fall in love with you
and just leave. It was like in the movies. What power
tastes like: knowing I could have him, even then.
How that one-room apartment with no AC
in the dead of summer made his skin wet,
made me want to see just how cold I could be.


I’m trying out what it means to be a woman
and take out the world with one bite.
Out of the garden and into the bog.


I am awake as any animal
under the star-wheeled night.

My skin a red slip
I could slick from my back
and start over

if I don’t get in my own way.


Behind the screen, vines cursive the names of ghosts,
the faucet beads into the basin.  
Be the space between each drip.  

In the kitchen his calloused hand pins my thigh.  

I don’t want to be held that way,
but the body is already bones and dirt.  
You can bury it anywhere.


A Mother’s Love Has Windows

I live in a house of open doors,
each one a small mouth.
I close them to quiet their begging.

This is how I trace time back.
All these years, broke and alone,

I don’t know which is worse—
to have lived at the heels of a man
who never much loved me, or to be tied

to this house bought through two bankruptcies
worth of legal bills, custody trials. 
I can still hear him shake

their dual citizenship at me, a jar of pennies,
how he could lift my girls over the sea
and that would be it. I could only fight so much.

Do they understand?

I could only fight
to the white flags of my pockets.  


Ruth Awad’s work has appeared in The New Republic, Anti-, Rattle, The Missouri Review’s Poem of the Week, Vinyl Poetry, Epiphany, The Drunken Boat, Copper Nickel, RHINO, The Spoon River Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She received the 2013 and 2012 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize and the 2011 Copper Nickel Poetry Contest, and was a finalist for the 2013 Ruth Lilly Fellowship.  She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.