blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



Single Girl. One Room Flat.

Even the butter's a block of sleazy light.

We see that first, as though we're dreary guests come to dreary supper.
We're at her table; its scrubbed deal is trim and lonely as a cot.
It's food for one, and everything we've ever hated, here a plate of pallid
grays and whites is succotash—and chops are those dark shapes glaring up at us.
Are you going to eat this, we want to ask; she's at the stove dishing up,
bricked up in that black apron reserved for maids and waitresses.
She's still a servant. Even here. So she has to clean her plate.
It's horrible to watch. Like the sad methodical rhythm of sobbing.
She pokes the bits of stuff into her mouth, and chews, and sips the glass of water
and stares at the power of the salt. The roll's glued shut like a little box
with all that sticky butter. The whole meal's so mechanical and chaste,
we wonder why she's bothered. Is this all working gets you?
Worried and fed up we wander to the single window with its strict bang
of blind. Our eyes pick and fidget, scratch at the door like a dog wanting out.
The whole room looks shelved and flattened, a valise packed with nothing.
She's at the bureau, now. Lining up the bobby pins. The room's a gun stuck
in her back. Don't move, it says. We look at the plate flanked by fork and spoon.
Even the scraps are neatly stacked. There's nothing left. This wasn't a meal,
it was a prayer. Mother, protect me. I'm one uncontrollable hunger away from ruin.  

return to top