A Beige House on Jolly Road

Enough space for privacy, Dad's stereo,
Mom's garden, kids, even my rowdy dog
and make-believe: it was a fine house
for a family. Empty forties littered ditches
on either side of the long gravel drive,
but two acres of woods kept us separate
from old Cadies next to trailers, wangstas,
the McDonald's shut down for vending
more than criminally unhealthy burgers,
the dollar store that reeked of diapers
and burnt rubber, the Rite Aid shoplifted
into empty shelves and slumped guards.
It was a fine house. The man with the pail
full of knives and rusted garden tools
taking up fort in the front flower bed
must have thought so. In one version,
the gold in his teeth snarled at us,
my brother and I, as we raced up the drive,
chubby legs leaping over mud-puddles.
My brother studied him, silently fished
the house key from his backpack,
unlocked the door and locked us back in.
In another version, it was summer,
and we'd been sent outside to weed beans
or play save the princess and came running
back inside to tell Mom there was a man,
a stranger, danger, a pail full of knives
to carve us into ghosts if he wanted.
He never did. The cops came hours later
and recognized him. There were handcuffs.
He was real as the hostas and pink impatiens
he crouched amongst: I imagine he chose that bed
for the shade of the nearby maple reaching
over the roof. It must have been a hot day
to not have a roof or tree. It was a fine house.


Genesis of the Only Michigander Who Doesn't Drive

Mom's in the passenger seat of the family minivan, fear-
braced against the door each time
I stop or turn or accelerate, yammering about my cousin
again: Such a little hussy.
And her parents, my aunt and uncle, uninvolved, clueless.
A four-way intersection,
early evening traffic stretching, my red light speaking
its cautions. How many abortions,
how many adoptions does it take? Someone ought to
just spay her like a dog!

So much depends upon wanting the right things:
to be alive next to
an alive body; the car not on fire, not splayed open showing
its violent machinery; church
pews not filled with bewildered mourning.
Mom's mouth is full of wicked names for girls
like me. My body, full-shame—
full-fury I can end as easily as not.
I count the cocks I've been touched by [eleven]
and thank each blood-filled one
for never planting anything noticeable in me.
I've never been good at wanting the right things. God,
take the wicked out of me or me out of it.

For the 2013-2014 academic year, Stevie Edwards will be a Lecturer in the English Department at Cornell University, where she previously attended as an MFA candidate in creative writing. Her first book, Good Grief (Write Bloody 2012), recently received the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) Bronze Prize for Poetry and the Devil's Kitchen Reading Award. Her poetry has appeared in Verse Daily, Rattle, Indiana Review, PANK, Vinyl, Devil's Lake, and Aim for the Head: An Anthology of Zombie Poetry. She is the Editor-in-Chief/Founder of Muzzle Magazine.