Poetry: Selections from Leah Mueller
Drawers of You
Etched cocktail glasses
with your father’s initials
crouch in the cupboard
with our two
yellow coffee cups,
untouched since May.
Forks and knives lie
like vanquished soldiers:
side by side, inert.
Once you cut
your meal in tiny pieces
so you could swallow,
throat contracting with rebellion.
It took two hours
to finish a meal: then
you looked up, beaming
after the last mouthful.
I wash each utensil
with care, erasing
the final remnants of you:
deep inside the cupboard,
that imprint remains:
the stubborn portion
your cancer didn’t eat first.
And so your wan face peers at last:
obituary in the hometown paper.
Your daughter calls you a hero:
she can’t believe you’re gone.
The man who drove you to the bus station
after you littered my apartment
with shards of broken glassware
warned you that musicians die young.
He became famous: threw himself
into the river ten years later.
You did not achieve fame:
settled into a life of unionized plumbing,
made a good salary, married a woman
who could securely cap your rage
and store it on the kitchen counter like flour.
The obituary mentioned your chef skills.
I remember you made good omelets,
worked in upscale restaurants,
drank in corners of the kitchen.
So many nights sneaking into our apartments
in Chicago, Iowa City, New Orleans, and Madison,
after stealing a few hours with friends,
but you always heard me: lunged from behind
closet doors, demanded to know who I was fucking.
Always, the shock of breakage:
stereos, windows, half-empty plates.
You pissed on me in the bathroom and laughed,
kicked me with the toes of your boots,
so hard that bruises covered my shins.
Bruises were normal. I grew up with them:
spent my time dodging projectiles,
beaten with belts, told to kill myself.
I knew what love looked like:
faces contorted but later contrite.
You, apologizing again. Your hands
on my body, knowing I never refuse.
Perhaps the lotus will cure us
this time, if eaten in fast, guilty clumps,
like forbidden chocolate. Perhaps
I can dive low enough to repair
everything that lies shattered on the bottom.
Leah Mueller is the author of ten prose and poetry books. Her latest book, Land of Eternal Thirst was released in 2021. Leah’s work appears in Rattle, Midway Journal, Citron Review, The Spectacle, Miracle Monocle, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, etc.