Two poems by Lauren Boulton


We covered our bodies in newspaper.
Plastered it, still-wet against our calf skin,
scooped away excess flour water,
handful by handful. Built self-shells.
We thought, I think, that we were only making art.

We felt the dangers, but only in bubbles,
bubbles we smoothed into the context of our bodies.
Very nearly flattened them out. Bubbles only felt, unseen.

There was enough good, surely, in the newspapers. In the words
in which we encased ourselves, words like progress and momentum,
in that moment we were sure would last forever. In the long arc
formed by a moral universe.

And oh, how warm we were, once the plaster dried.
How warm in the cocoons we constructed, models of our bodies
made from narratives of all we’d overcome. We had that luxury,
we paper ones, the warmth of the front page and the illegible verso.

We turned from the naked ones, their shivers
as they peeled up the parts of the paper that we refused to read.
They pointed and poked at our bubbles and we pretended
that we could not feel kind fingers, warning hands.

But when the dangers came, they emerged from our own bubbles.
We birthed them from our skin, and they came with ropes
that they strung through us like perch. Weaved in and out of our bodies,
the naked and the paper ones, together. Hooked through us where they could.
Through a neck and out a stomach. Through an arm and out a vagina.
The dangers connected us to one another.

That was when we finally saw the naked ones.
We looked into their wide eyes with our wide eyes,
and gasped as they gasped
with hungry lungs the same as our own.

The dangers came with paper still over their eyes, sticks in hand.
And they beat us, they beat us all until the ground was sticky with candy.
And they ate.



Bakers and eaters

They swallow curled lime shavings, white sliced butter flesh,
flour aura that hangs still in the air, clings to my skin.
In the seas of their mouths, saliva waves crumple sandcastles,
collapse graham cracker crumb crust. The ocean in the orifice,
gull-cry in the gullet. They sweep themselves down around
what I’ve made until there’s not a word left in the dessert pan.
They have devoured every minute spent in the kitchen.

That brown-gold grows under fire. It’s seductive.
The middle school chemistry lesson—a bread baked cannot be unbaked,
a beaten egg cannot extract itself to albumen and yolk. All those changes
in the physical, the chemical. And then the mouth and the stomach, the intestine
and the cell, the heartbeat and the breath and the heat that we let leave us.
Everything goes but the force behind everything.

I’ve been seduced by vanilla and ink, the way they stain the recipes
and seem, somehow, to stay. But my oldest cards have begun to fade
and I am young yet. Not a crumb left in the plate, a word in the paragraph.
Some nights, when I put away my measuring cups, I wonder if I will ever
remove them from the pantry. Sometimes they eat so fast, I swear they
have not tasted. And most times I bake, nobody is as hungry as I’d like.

There’s sacrifice, of course, in the biblical sense. That must count for something.
To leave the air and invisible beasts to eat until the food withers away on the altar.
But the gods of bakers are human, and we must wait for them to taste and hum,

to affirm that what we’ve made is worthy. If it’s worthy.

A warm kitchen, though, or beating an egg white, heavy cream,
watching changes in color, shape. And then that first bite,
the one you take alone, the moment before taste discovers texture,
the moment before you know what exactly it is you’ve made.



Lauren Boulton holds an MFA in poetry from Bowling Green State University and works as a technical writer for Johnson-Rauhoff. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Pinch, Muse/A Journal, A Portrait in Blues anthology from Platypus Press, minnesota review, Booth, Paper Nautilus, and others.



(Front page image via)

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