Grown            woman            just learning

to whistle,            tuneless.            Half-steeped

in sleep,            I thought she was            the kettle

debating            doneness.            She was

naked, a grown            woman,            whistling and

frying tomatoes—            the white            brindle

on her hips            where her hips            were in

a hurry. To be            done. To be            done with.

To be a grown            woman            looking back

on the cities that            bore her,            the white

brindle the brindle            of a big cat,            of something

slinking            in a bleached            prairie, looking back

on an oasis—and so            far to go yet.            I was

a city looked            back on. I asked            for a grown

woman; I got            an animal.            And an animal

doesn’t know what            it wants until            the wanting

becomes it.            She had woken            too early wanting

tomatoes.            I had thought she            was a kettle debating

doneness; I had thought            she was a grown            woman. I

was wrong; I was            done with.            She was looking

back.            Looking back,            she was salt, was

a pillar. Already            the kettle had found            its tune,

was done with            searching.            It wouldn’t

stop            until the house            burned, until

the salt in the            shape of a grown            woman had

melted in            steam, had streamed            out the door

to seed            the garden. As if            the tomatoes could be

done with, could be            salted before            they grew.

A grown            woman.            I asked, as a child

for an animal            and got one:            A dog. I

named it            Dog. It wanted            all the tomatoes

from the garden and            got them,            and got

sick on the floor. I            cleaned it up.            I am

learning.            When next I am asked            I will ask

for my            fields filled            with salt. I will

ask            for a salt lick.            The animals will

travel for            miles. They won’t            know what

they want,            until            they want me.

 

 

 

 

Sean Bishop
is the author of The Night We’re Not Sleeping In (Sarabande, 2014), selected by Susan Mitchell as winner of the 2013 Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry. His poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly ReviewBest New PoetsBoston ReviewjubilatPloughshares, Poetry, and elsewhere. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where he teaches creative writing and creative writing pedagogy, and coordinates the MFA and Fellowship programs at UW-Madison. He is the founding editor of Better (bettermagazine.org
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