Selected Poems

by Lauren Coodley


 

The Women Who

The women who

once lived with

men: you see

them standing

at their stoves

on hot summer

nights. The air

cools on the corner

house under the pines,

where lives a woman

who once lived

with a man.

Her tall figure

strides through

the kitchen, dog

just off the leash.

 

The women who

once lived with

men now sit

alone at night.

You see her pick

up glasses and magazine,

balancing the remote control

and her bowl of take-out.

 

The women who

once lived with

men, for men, off men,

beneath men, the women

who lived longing for men,

now leave their own

footprints across the freshly

mopped floors and straggle

into nightgowns, bathrobes,

and their quiet

single beds.

 . . .

 

Dirt

All night, my stomach

has knotted, hard as a fist:

The moon watches

me, a sly curve, as I walk

the dog. Back home,

I throw some sprouts on a

cracker and swallow… dirt, dirt

in my mouth, and I spit—

over and over again.

 

I have had to taste

my own desire, discovering

appetite while flesh sheered

away, energy burning to the

bone. I have watched hunger grow,

growling, up from my knees.

 

Grab some grapes, crush

the skins with sharpened

teeth, let the sweet juice

wash the dirt down.

 

I have swallowed too much

dirt in my life, flowing away

faster now. Let these grapes

remind me this existence is

mine to consume. Let this

taste not bring shame,

nor an end to appetite.

. . .

 

Body Sculpture

What stories have brought

us to this room, where we flex

muscles for the long mirrors?

 

Each woman seeks to control

one part of her life: to know

she can create a ripple

of flesh, stripped to the

bone… atonement for what sins

of appetite or desire?

 

Legs sculpted or swollen, hair gleaming,

shoulders bent, we lift our weights.

In our eyes, a holy fire glows,

a sacrifice to the molding of flesh.

 

We grunt and sweat and squat,

streaming moisture, sticky with

the unspoken, lifting a heavier

weight each time. What images

move through our brains as we

rhythmically kneel and kick

in a kinesthetic trance?

 

Only here can we release

our bodies and not fear

our passions. Body sculpture:

out of our bodies

that have betrayed

us so often with their hungers,

we will forge new forms.

 

Without words we will tell

the world: I have shaped

myself. I can find at least

this pleasure that comes

from my own work.

 

Lauren Coodley

Lauren Coodley taught psychology and history at the local community college for more than three decades. Her most recent books include Upton Sinclair: California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual (University of Nebraska Press, 2013) and Napa Valley Chronicles (The History Press, 2013). This is her first published poetry. You can learn more about her work at laurencoodley.com.