Sara Quinn Rivara is the author of the forthcoming collection, Animal Bride (Tinderbox Editions, 2018) and Lake Effect (Aldrich Press, 2013). Her work has appeared recently in West Branch, Tahoma Literary Review, Blackbird, Poemeleon, Tinderbox Poetry Journal and numerous other journals. A native Midwesterner, she now lives and works in Portland, Oregon.
a collective noun of quails and ladies
Big-breasted girls, pale, we lived on Oreos and ginger
ale. The North Branch of the Chicago River hightailed it
toward the Big Lake. Everything disappeared, was swallowed up.
Trash, dead leaves, girls. We pissed in the shallow creek,
burned ants beneath a magnifying glass. Burned them to death,
we said. Killed them to death! Death was a kind of instead;
instead of eating we’d run, drink diet Coke, break. I broke
my deaf sister’s fingers with our bedroom door. She couldn’t speak
for weeks. I hit another sister on the head with a hairbrush, blood spattered
the floor. I was punished; she has a scar. Another sister I flung against
the armoire. One broke my rib, another cut the crotches from my panties
and we sliced our pictures from the yearbook, scratched out our eyes
with a tack. Boone’s Farm and acetone soaked our clothes.
We’ll burn if you get too close. The female body is a wet mess.
By seventeen, we’d learned to sugar our tongues, shape our fingers
around yes. We pressed our soft bodies against our narrow beds.
It would have been handy, learning to speak. But nobody told us that, then.