Poems by Leona Sevick
Every fight begins this way:
“You’ve handed her the gun,
the one she’ll shoot me with.”
And by you I mean me. And by
her I mean my teenager who’ll
use whatever I leave lying around
to hurt me with. And by the gun
I mean the words. In the news
a six-year-old shoots his first-grade
teacher. A toddler waves a gun
in the hallway of an apartment
building while neighbors peer
through the judas hole to see
the world grotesque, fish-eyed.
They say look what happens
when parents are just no good.
I’ve learned there are a hundred
ways to be reckless with love.
I’ve handed her my gun—
sighted, cleaned, and loaded.
There’s one in the chamber
already. And by the chamber
you know I mean my heart.
The wind whips tiny blossoms off the Japanese
cherry trees, swirling them around the stiff, seated
Buddha in my garden. At this moment he seems
more alive than she is, though his pocked stone skin
is drained of color and his eyes are sealed tight against
the clean light of morning. Inside a darkened room
she sleeps: her soft, oily face unguarded, tender
frame loosely coiled. This is my girl, the one who breaks
every curfew, whose whims fly over her face
in technicolor clarity, who would rather talk
than read, who sleeps to recharge for the next excess.
When she was a toddler, I called for her, found her
in the great room where she’d climbed outside
the staircase to the second story holding onto
wooden spindles, her sticky toes inching along
the narrow strip of tread fifteen feet above me.
Stifling a scream, I coaxed her down, step by step,
squeezed her so tightly she yelped in pain. With friends,
with family, I call her my sleeper, her full potential
unknown, even to the Buddha who claims to know it all.
Leona Sevick is the 2017 Press 53 Poetry Award Winner for her first full-length book of poems, Lion Brothers. Her recent work appears in Orion, Birmingham Poetry Review, The Southern Review, and The Sun. Leona serves on the advisory board of the Furious Flower Black Poetry Center and is provost and professor of English at Bridgewater College in Virginia, where she teaches Asian American literature. Her second collection of poems, The Bamboo Wife, is forthcoming in 2024.