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Home: The Toast

Grief

You can’t love a ham. Luckily,

you notice the quilted quality

of its leathery skin looks a lot like

a certain iconic handbag. You can

wear a ham as a handbag.

You can’t love a kohlrabi.

In December, the only thing to eat

is kohlrabi, unless you hop

on its spaceship bulb and whiz

away to kohlrabi space.

You can’t love button mushrooms

while dropping a handful

of their still breathing bodies into

a brown paper bag, but the famous

photographer will take your picture.

You can’t love apples even though

they are there through the winter.

A poem with apples is a recipe

for big, biblical love. An apple,

even small, is a word for love.

You can’t love a city, pudgy

with people because empty of one

person it’s all fucking wrong.

Not Here

Instead, I am a person who is very good

at making pancakes. There is always time

for pancakes. I wear the river well

and the people I love wave before they jump

from the bridge. It is easy to be almost alone

most of the time, even with all of the eye contact.

I wish that I was a country singer or a four year old,

so I could say simply that I hurt and I want

to go home. But here, there’s no blanket fort, no banjo.

In the vegetable light of the corner store, where

watermelons are labeled as red cabbages, I remember

the thing about misery: there’s always a more beautiful way

to say it. A bleeding bag of huckleberries—

a way, with words, to what we love.

A Cat Lady Knows

A cat lady does not mind when a half-frozen banana comes out of the skin and looks like shit. She can imagine, someday, compromising and having a kid. A cat lady takes a stand and just lets her hair go. Walking around with every woman’s worst fear on her head, a cat lady is prone to shed. If a cat lady could be one place other than the place she is, she would be anywhere. Anywhere in her early twenties when she didn’t pay for clothes, poor in a poor, gorgeous hole. Anywhere in the cow barn at the county fair, tucked away in the earth-ripe air. A cat lady would ride whatever she could get her hands on. She’ll find a burger stand on the side of the highway and make a life there.

Black Eyed Susan

A young couple is on the train.

He cuts her arm off at the elbow

with his hand, shaped

like a kindergarten karate chop.

In my life I have crushed

a grasshopper for the joy

of the crunch. There are

words for things like this:

for me, for the boy

and his gorgeous mimicry

of taking his beloved’s limb,

but—of course—the train

is very loud. Of course

there’s an old woman reading

a magazine in Polish

about wildflowers. I wonder which

is her darling, which one

she’d snip a bunch of and say

I really don’t know what I’ll do

with quite so much of you.

Drinking Before Noon in the Holy City

There are holes, like puddles made

more jumpable because you’re sure

they’re endless. Every country song

on the radio is about dirt roads

and being carefree so you start traveling

by horse-drawn carriage.

You go to the girl at the aquarium,

whose wonder at the starfish

is boundless. Day after day

when she points to the dark spot

at its center and says anus,

to a stranger standing on the other side

of the shallow pool, her awe is overwhelming.

You can understand focusing on one

perfect thing. There is a parking garage

built on the old Quaker cemetery. Call it

tithing, everyday you get a ticket to sit

in silence between two yellow lines.

You stare down at the asphalt, waiting

for it to open up.

Autumn Giles is a writer from Montana who lives in Queens, NY.

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