Claudia Cortese

show me the boy

that neighs at the stars, curls on leaf-beds.

Dear made-for-Sunday dress, I will leave

my petticoat on the fence, cape & muff on tree stump.

Dear glistering meadow, let his muzzle

investigate the new tufts of hair in my armpit.

Mother says, You must eat your porridge & whey,

drink your black tea flecked with curdled milk,

or I’ll abandon you at the woods’ edge

where howls rise up through the trees

and all who enter return with tails

beneath their skirts, a beak instead of a nose.

At night, my bed becomes the forest floor—

the boy’s fur softens between my fingers.

Dear moon’s milk eye, your sad

lid of calcium, I crack my bowl against the door,

refuse to drink my tea. Dear book of girl secrets,

ink & parchment—

why won’t Mother do as she promises?

Claudia Cortese’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2011, Crazyhorse, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Rattle, and DIAGRAM, among others. Cortese just completed her first of book poetry, which explores trauma, myth, fairy tales, and girlhood. She lives and teaches in New Jersey.

“The suburban townhouse I grew up in had what I thought were two porches. It wasn’t until I moved into a run-down, old house the summer before my second year of college, that I realized those weren’t porches—they were a concrete square at our front door and a back deck. I didn’t understand the magic of a front porch until the summer my friends and I rented that house. We’d found a ratty couch on the side of the road and carried it three blocks to our porch, where we spent countless hours—drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, strumming the communal guitar, discussing our existential crises as pot smoke rose to the stars. My first porch taught me how to be both in the world and not: to witness moon’s bone eye between green leaves, the crickets’ wiry cries in the grass, and yet be separate from them. In other words, it taught me how to be a writer.”