A Woman You Know
On Sunday nights she paints her nails
a different shade of pink each week
of the month. Her antique radio wails
old songs she loves, but her memory fails
her every other lyric. Her sleek
fingers stretch as she paints her nails
with late-night intensity. The color trails
to her knuckles sometimes, when her hands shake,
as they will. As they will. The radio wails
a ballad about some sad lover’s travails,
fever, whiskey, moonlight, heartbreak,
the same old story. She paints her nails
through tears sometimes, that damned female
cliché. She is anything but weak,
although often alone in the dark she wails
to no one there. Surviving entails
dying a little each day. Her cheeks
are flushed with living, as pink as her nails.
Her eyes dance like dragons. The radio wails.
A woman in a market parking lot
asks customers to spare her five or ten.
She says she’s stuck in this town, and she is not
ashamed to admit she just got out of prison,
and some who give her money out of fear
or pity or weariness will shake their heads
to see her later, checking out, paying for beer,
a bag of donuts, a carton of cigarettes.
Others will understand, or not begrudge
whatever gets a person through the day.
Some who seem, like these, too hesitant to judge
simply forget her as soon as she walks away.
Lights strung in the market window blink all night
in familiar rhythms, red and green and white.
A man in a downstairs apartment moves
furniture from his patio to an old Chevy van.
He wears blue jeans and stained leather gloves.
His steps are sure and solid. A focused man.
Fresh from committee fights and your last goodbye,
I envy his smooth efficiency.
He carries a chair across concrete, and I
could measure what he’s done.
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaSoon he is free
to close all doors and leave. Simple as that,
I want to believe, though each pore of me senses
I don’t know the story of what makes him go:
a father’s illness, a lost job, a lover’s spat.
Gaze as we might through curtains, over fences,
who can trace the gap between see and know?
The Bedouin Wife
Wherever they settled, she dreamt the place she left
still held the things she needed most–the spoon
she fed her sons with buried in a dune,
as if the earth demanded such cruel theft,
or in the ashes of the rubbish heap
the rings her husband gave her when they wed.
Around her fingers bits of fraying thread
replaced the trust she had no hope to keep.
Some nights she watched herself meandering back
to places other tribes had claimed, to sift
through dust and twigs for some forgotten gift
long since deposited in a peddler’s pack.
Some nights she became the thing they threw away,
walking old borders, searching distant haze
in case she was missed, until the press of days
convinced her of the hell it means to stay.
And when she woke those nights, she understood
that no more sleep would come. Instead the thrill
of knowing her body to be awake and still
enough to hear the movement of her blood.
Our mothers wrapped us in satin and lace,
our skirts flaring like new April blooms
of flowers flashing their earthly grace.
Our hands and faces wiped clean of all trace
of our rompings in gardens and dusty back rooms,
our mothers wrapped us in satin and lace
and marched us to church at a uniform pace,
our skin wafting the modest perfumes
of Ivory soap and unearthly grace.
The blare of the organ was destined to chase
from our ears and our minds our favorite pop tunes.
Our mothers wrapped us in satin and lace
because they had been once. Time doesn’t erase
dull fears of the Father in his heavenly gloom
exacting repression for eternal grace,
but come the “Amen,” how fast we would race
from the door, like Lazarus freed from the tomb.
We dirtied the satin, unraveled the lace.
Wind-battered blossoms of earthly disgrace.
Jo Angela Edwins teaches literature and writing at Francis Marion University in Florence, SC. Her poems have appeared in various venues including Calyx, Adanna, New South, Naugatuck River Review, and Typishly. She has received poetry awards from the South Carolina Academy of Authors and Poetry Super Highway and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her chapbook Play was published in 2016.