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joanna novak


dirty life


I was cleaning mushrooms when I saw the pigs, four of them, and they must have been runts or piglets. They fit on full sheet trays with only their heads and stiff feet dangling, snouts, distinct eye balls, eachly curved or constricted mouths, their hoofed feet. They were pink. Inside their cavities, the darkness turned their guts red. My lips, my cheeks, my stupid knees. Driving east, sun bleached the hills so entirely I read autumn through plashy gauze, red paled like the hint of a wound. As though I love leaves, you, the trees, the gut-checking will-work of clouds. As though I could never tire. These were pigs, not women. These pigs weren’t me, these were dead. This wasn’t women, this was dead me. Who was I in the kitchen? One strategy. Before a board, I stem mushrooms. A rack of pigs stands beyond the pot sink. The twisting is more a pop. I move slowly to avoid breaking the stem.  If I broke the stem, I would have to follow up with a paring knife and everyone everyone everyone knows I am slow with a knife.



Hot Spell of Speech 


Out of state, I am free to ask of you that which our shared environment does not permit.

I do not fare well in company.

        I have a weakness: sustained,
one-on-one, side by side.

    With this mind, I would like you
to sit beside me and
                talk before a film. Work here, you said—now I spell

        for you.         To say I do not have a particular film in mind would a lie.

    This will be serious
a matinee of gray-brown captivity. There is but one film to anticipate as we sit.
I have hopes for seats like an adolescent as what is between us appears on the reel.

    A girl. Do her arms lift? Heels or boots?

What else—how terrific to be touched in the lobby,
    my small back beneath the curve

of your palm, another lozenge I’ll suck to the grave.  

    Are we the same page?





JoAnna Novak is a writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. She lives in Massachusetts.