Claudia Cortese

Swallow this, my little sparrow, your feathers

are white and snowlike tonight, but the pluck

comes quicker than you think, and no one loves

a goosepimpled girl, all bald skin. The snow

falls in big furry clumps. It’s sexy-fun

to be angelic, but you can’t blame this witch

her art—I only want to kill the dumb bunny

in myself, coal-dust her skin, gift

the black lung to every passing prince,

dreaming of glass coffins. I want his horse

to rush me towards color that crashes

across dusk sky, to smolder

in Spanish capes, toss my skirts

to the fiery path, cool my naked breasts

in the river . . . For now, I have my broom.

Sure, it’s been known to skim wimples, collapse

into the occasional steeple, but it gets me home.

And if that snowy girl with cinnamon breath

and thoughts like unleavened bread

wants to live, she’ll have to lick

my every web of skin

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.”