Poems by Melissa Ginsburg
I go out there a barefoot girl
looking for my mother
I find her among the wasps
in the backyard playhouse
they’ve come to glue
her paper nest
corner of the yard
the playhouse with the wasps
the molding carpet
the playhouse with the snakes
the honey-smelling nest
the house of tunnels
the house of stung hands
the hands full of paper
the feel of the paper
snaking the ankles
the venom traveling
under the low ceiling
built for children
she hangs her head
her mouth full of woodpulp
she opens her mandibles
and makes me
she makes me a series
of hexagonal cells
and crawls inside to lay
for Elsa and Dale
When my aunt was a child and her doll got sick
she called the doctor. Her own pediatrician.
She made the call herself because her mother
wouldn’t. The baby was not alive but this
was not the illness. The illness
was alive, made calls, had a mother.
Had a doctor and a telephone. Lived in a convenient
body. The doctor was real with his medicine dropper,
alive with pink liquid the flavor of berries. The mother
was a living doll. Movable limbs, respiratory system.
She called her daughters berries. Sugared them
and watched them weep. She knew so many selves.
Had a lot of doctors. Didn’t call illness anything ever.
The illness called its mother pink. Had that number
memorized. Moved around. Liked bodies and their systems.
The doll lay overripe and real, worrying everyone sick.
The child my aunt grew sick with motherhood
and stayed that way. Stained pink from babies’
sticky fingers. Sickness loved them all. It lived
and flourished. The doll called ill swallowed it whole.
Melissa Ginsburg is the author of the poetry collections Doll Apollo and Dear Weather Ghost, the novels The House Uptown and Sunset City, and three poetry chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker, Image, Guernica, Kenyon Review, Fence, Southwest Review, and other magazines. She is Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.