Theresa Edwards is married, has two sons, and is an adjunct writing
instructor/tutor at Marist College. Her poetry has appeared in
SNReview, Pitkin Review, Chronogram, and others. She has written
musical compositions and has finished a novella. Theresa holds an
M.A. in English and will complete an M.F.A. in Creative Writing,
Goddard College, this July. She is lead poetry editor for Pitkin
's fall 2006 issue.

Joanie Bach
after reading Dorianne Laux's "Fear"

She was afraid of everything:hands-
touch the hands of her old grandmother, flesh
the color of a cloudy sky, her skin turns grey.
Touch the black boy's hand on the kindergarten
line, Catholic school, she turns black. Or brown, his palms
a lighter brownish color, like he dipped them flat
in peroxide every day. Afraid of Liz,
her camp counselor who had no hands,
long arms with long black hair, black as the bottom
of the well behind her aunt's house she squinted
to see, never could see the bottom clearly,

only the black. She was afraid of loving
her camp counselor. Liz comforted her
when she worried about the dirty water
running off the top of the latrines;
it would poison her. Counselor rubbed her forehead
with stumps, it was smooth peace like when her
mother held her hand until she fell asleep,
counted imaginary ice cream scoops
to calm her brain. She was afraid to go to sleep
in the black room without the nightlight on. The
closet man held her hands around the bar
in between hanging, Catholic school uniforms.
She dangled in the air, felt the blood rush in between
her thighs, felt like a butterfly scared to fly in the dark.

She was afraid of stepping on sidewalk cracks
or not walking forward the right way. She walked
backward then forward (like she read geese did,
like a caged tiger),
until she thought her mother and father were
safe in the world for another day. They wouldn't
die, flat on the sidewalk, sucked through
the crack, down into hell
because she knew beyond the earth's core was only
the black of concern she squinted to find.

And she knew what that color meant. How it
covered up her skin when she let
the black boy touch her, or her father's black friend
hold her hand to cross the street. But she didn't
know how to make her brain
slow, the sound of a train whistle,
grab onto it and hold. She was afraid

of the horizontal attic door, it left an opening in the air,
she watched the long, black slit grow and shrink
when she squinted her eyes and sat at the bottom
of the stairs. She was afraid of the clicking
in her ears when she swallowed, this was something
no one else heard. Afraid of war movies her father
watched every day, afraid soldiers would lose
their limbs, afraid she would lose her arm
grow another one back, black with brown
palm and grey fingers, she was afraid of
the shadow in the mirror; it fed her replays
of hands she didn't want to touch,
cracks she couldn't avoid,
an incomplete cadence: no resolve.

She Didn't Eat Her

The dog smelled like old socks,
lying on the waxed, wooden floor.

The woman, dog's best friend,
sat in sunlight reading an old book found in the basement.
She stood to get another cup of coffee,
grabbed her shirt sleeve, ripping it at the seam,
sat back down in sunlight.

The dog moaned, high-pitched
muffled trill.
Molded into sleep
at the foot of the woman's chair,
curled up, face into her belly like a cat,
for hours.

The woman slowly changed, shifting inside her body,
blood coagulating beneath skin.
Something burned in the kitchen:
a shallow singe of coffee grinds had fallen into the pot.

Smelling food, the dog woke, stretched,
her smooth neck undulating, stood on all fours,
yawned a loud, long, shrill moan-
nuzzled against her buddy's arm, nudged

The dog remained: nose gently pressed
against best friend's arm until the telephone rang.
The woman would wake to talk, press her lips
against plastic, resonate familiar sounds into the receiver.

The dog moved to the front of the woman's chair,
Her woman remained: long brown hair,
tints of silver along the edges of her forehead
eyes changed: bright, hazel pupils into
still, yellow marbles,
reddened folds around lashes.

The dog sniffed,
stole sweet cookies on the side table,
left the woman's chair, headed for the back door,
left a large puddle.

Next morning, the dog woke to telephone ringing,
pangs in stomach,
Wedged her light brown nose
under friend's hand,
licked the woman's fingers,
salt, sugar, skin.
The dog searched the house,
no open toilet.

The woman festered
like geraniums,
smelling bitter, fetid.
The dog rested her head on the woman's lap,
sank into thighs.
Bones splintered within the woman's jeans.
Smell of bone, not normal, tasty sweetness,
made the dog pull away
feces at the back door.

telephone rang-

Resting her head on the woman's foot,
the dog gently crushed
in thick air-
a pungent decay
thick night, hunger.
The dog whimpered as she deeply slept.

She dreamed:
filled bowls with food
mouth drool
tasty, chunks for
big brown dog
lapping water
chewing bones
tasty, sweet
like candy canes
like woman's hands
when she cooks,
Italian breadcrumbs
banana bread
peanut butter,
woman's toes
after walking in the backyard.

Next day-

"Mom, you there?" the dog heard, slowly staggering to the door,
attempting to bark-
mouth dry as plant dirt on the windowsill.

Her woman's son petted
his mother's dog with one hand,
other hand cupped tightly
on his nose-
in thick air, thick sunlight,
smelling mother.

Coffee pot softly cracked above the burner.

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