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Poems from Mistress by Chet’la Sebree


As a tampon bouquets in toilet water,

I think of Bellovedere—a wine I tried

on a Wednesday along with an Italian

man’s mouth, full of English.

I don’t know what reminds me of this.

Perhaps the red, perhaps

that bello da vedere means beautiful to see,

and I understand beauty

is always a train leaving the station, understand that

I’m always worried I’ll be moments too late,

as the poly-blend slurries out its braided restraints.

Something about my language on his tongue

as he discusses Montepulciano,

reminds me of a baby I may never see,

as the soaked cotton continues its unraveling.

Abito in Ravenna

You live “in” countries and continents;

you live “a Ravenna,” cities and towns,

the gruff Florentine corrects me,

tongue doing a pirouette.

I murmur vorresti rigatoni all’arrabiata

under my breath to feel the heft

of the words roll around, but

there’s glue in my mouth. Here,

I am a pigeon-toed ballerina,

a four-year-old learning to ride

my biggie bike, unable to

stabilize, tipping off the seat—

Little Mermaid-decorated metal

falling on top of me.

Wiping frustration from my face,

I smile, Si singore, abito a Ravenna

where women know nothing

of my gracelessness,

cycling with umbrellas and lit cigarettes.

Winter Warm, December 1807

You brought the chill in on your buttons.

My hands, cold from the cellar, make their way

from shirt front to collar. I circumvent you,

pull the blue-colt coat from your shoulders.

I shudder—wined breath on neck,

fingertips on ribs of corset.

Inside, I go outside for a moment,

imagine a star-speckled sight that keeps me—

as striped, worsted wool falls to the floor—

from hungering for my mother, brother, Paris.

Brought back by the crackle of fire

—within me—as you lift my shift slowly.

Winter Warm

The crickets’ hum quiets in autumn—

season of slow death, season of your birth—

silence making the leaves more necessary

as night comes earlier each morning.

I sent the winter socks and sweaters you left me in May—

talismans I hoped would bring you back

for wool-warm nights and blue-hue mornings.

They didn’t.

Wrap your sixth love in as many springs

in your grey cable-knit, your fleeced Gold-Toes.

I’m slow-streaking across a vacant lot

from the arms of one sweater to another’s,

trying to find me in the in-between.

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