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Robin Kinzer

Year One, First Friday of January


All Night Long, I Dream of Blueberries


I follow the blaze of sun bouncing off

my older sister’s blonde head. We inch

backwards down the mountain hunching

over our house— small red smear from


this height. Sister has moved from pigtails

to ponytails, is inching toward double digits.

There’s me: sturdy five year-old, hefting

yellow plastic pail in chub-rolled arms.


Dad leads the way as we slowly crawl

down the mountain, gathering blueberries.

I want to gather the most berries of anyone

in our family, plucking their juice-plumped


bodies from between low-growing green curls.

But I reach back to Mom, make sure she doesn’t

fall behind. After all, she is the one who will

later make a steaming blueberry pie, make


rhubarb-blueberry crumble, make blueberry

pancakes for breakfast if we’re very lucky.

I think of the oysters we saw clinging

to the grey rocks by the shore, think of


the sluggish lobsters Dad brought home

in a bucket. At five, the idea of living off

the land is miraculous to me. Though just

as quickly, I dart to eat a berry, and Dad


says: Not that one, it’s poisonous. I reconsider

the whole matter. At night, Mom rests my

head on her lap, reads me Blueberries For Sal.

I pretend that it was written all about me.


Just as when I’ve had a really bad day, I like

to pretend Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible,

No Good, Very Bad Day is about me. Just a few

orbital go-rounds in me, and I’m already learning


to find myself in language, in stories. Words

peeling off the page. Adhering to my skin. I fall

asleep while Mom reads, blueberry pie crusted

indigo in the corners of my lips. She wipes it off


with her index finger, and hauls me into her arms.

Sweeps a kiss across my forehead before leaving

me in bed. All night long, I dream of blueberries:

ripe, plump. Blissfully unaware that in thirty years,

they will become one of just five foods I can eat.



 


Stuffed Shells



Thanksgiving, 1999


This is the year we are both eighteen, the year we both

live in Boston. Gusts pour off the Charles River, and rattle

my fifth floor windows. Blue glass bottles line your bedroom

windows, just one level above street. When we lay in your bed,

breeze waltzing across our necks from cracked window, I hear

glass breaking beneath us. Voices catching and shouting.

I nestle deeper into the dip of your collarbone, holding you

the way I imagine one eggshell might hold another.


We start a Thanksgiving ritual this year, crafting vegan stuffed shells

ballooned full of baked tofu, red and green peppers, grilled onions.

The pasta shells are enormous; we clasp them in our small hands

and giggle. Chopping onions streaks our faces with tears, so we

wear sunglasses; mine, glittered pink stars that recall Elton John.

Yours, pure Hepburn. When even the glasses don’t stop our tears,


we laugh so much that we only cry harder. Bent over, clutching

sore sides. I like pepper that’s a blend of white, sharp black,

and red. You like a particular tamari. We cook with entirely more

olive oil than anyone needs. Placing the shells on enormous

swirled discs of pottery, we devour them, palms shiny with oil,

green pepper between my teeth, onion clinging to your full lips.

I watch you laugh, red curls dipping into wide-tossed mouth.

Loving you is the most effortless thing I’ve ever done.



Thanksgiving, 2021


This is the year life asks so much of you that I consider challenging

it to a duel. It is also the year I get sick again, though not quite yet,

not until one more season turns over. For now: Thanksgiving,

twenty-two years past. You are back in your native Philadelphia,

surrounded by ferns, obscure philosophy texts, jam-sticky fingerprints

from nieces who consider you Mom. I’m in Baltimore, which I’ve

come to love deeply, tunneled into the trenches of graduate school.

Piles of poetry books drip from both sides of my bed. Three well-fed

cats drape across second-hand, velvet furniture I hauled from Portland.


Our bodies, forty years old now, are bent and particular.

Your dietary needs as regimented as a platoon of Marines,

while my new illness will soon allow almost no foods at all.

We’re almost precisely a hundred miles apart on this

Thanksgiving Day, and you decide to make a heavily

altered version of our ritual stuffed shells. Instead of pasta,

floppy red pepper shells, hollowed out. Instead of baked tofu,

fake beef made from corn. You send photos, turn me all teeth.

I send words that leap and glisten from the page. Haiku kisses.


I have loved you for twenty-six years— I will love you for the next

twenty-six. Even when bodies change; when sugar, gluten,

soy can’t be processed. Even when bodies break down in ways

science does not understand, rock gardens growing in the cradle

of my own delicate stomach. Even then, we persevere.


A hundred miles apart on Thanksgiving, I open your email,

find photos of glorious red pepper shells. A hundred miles apart,

I close my eyes, imagine a garnet fleck stuck to your lower lip:

I laugh out loud.


We persevere.



 

The Miracle



When we were young, and sick to our stomachs,

my mother would craft some old-fashioned miracle

of a milkshake. Made for her by her mother before.

It didn’t even involve ice cream. She shook two percent


milk, bitter vanilla, grainy sugar into a froth. Rattling them

in mason jars crammed with ice cubes. A sort of kitchen

cha cha cha, dancing her way across orange and green tile.

I gulped the contents down. Every time, instant relief.


I had seen re-runs of Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie flit

in grey-scale across my family’s tiny living room t.v. set—

so when my mother performed her kitchen conjurings,

I knew well enough to suspect some sort of sweet sorcery.


Years later, I would become so ill, I could not leave

my bed for years. At one point, forced to gulp back

fifty-odd pills a day, along with liquid medicines and

gummy fentanyl patches. Nothing ever worked as well


or as quickly as my mother’s milky kitchen concoctions.

So now, sick again, and drinking my first-ever vanilla

milkshake from Shake Shack, it’s possible I expect too

much. I only want to take a sip, and find that my mother


has materialized from dust mote-rich air. I only want

the milkshake to taste as good as her frothed mason jar

concoctions. I only want to stop needing oxycodone

or zofran or any of it. Every swig acts as a wish for my


mother, for the curl of her small hands on my shoulders.

Shake Shack lets me down, lifts the typhoon of my nausea

only slightly. I watch the spotted white goo ooze slowly

down the drain. Slink into my bedroom. Take another pill.



 


Canticle For Our Sunday in The Park



The sun lies along your skin like a lazy, sleeping cat.

Nearby, a fountain sings a bubbling mermaid song.

An elderly man sleeps on the green steel bench across

from us, his delicate snores their own small symphony.


I have brought with me edible treasures: glistening

watermelon, vanilla cupcake with sweet cream center.

I envy the crumbs as they tickle your lips; envy the fruit

as it swirls around each taste bud of your cunning tongue.


The earth beneath us is green as sweet peas fresh from

the market, as if gallons of them were snapped open and

spilled beneath us. We sit on a slight slant that urges me

closer to you, as if even the ground beneath us wants me


to touch you. I waltz to the fountain a few paces from us,

and toss in two copper whispers: One wish for me, and one

for you. You seem at a loss when I tell you this: What to do

with a wish; what to do with this pale, pink-haired creature


who offers it to you? My lipstick shimmers, fish scale pink, and stops

us short of kissing. The anticipation is an animal hum as I lean in,

brush my nose against your cheek. You say: We might fall in love.

It’s terrifying. I say: Sunshine, fountain, an infinity of pennies. I say:


Dreams as wide and long as the cumulus clouds above us. I say:

Love and Yes and Please— oh, please.


 

Robin Kinzer is a queer, disabled poet, memoirist, and editor. She was once a communist beaver in a PBS documentary. She previously studied psychology and poetry at Sarah Lawrence and Goucher Colleges, and is now an MFA candidate at University of Baltimore. Robin has poems recently published, or shortly forthcoming in Little Patuxent Review, Kissing Dynamite Poetry, Anti-Heroin Chic, fifth wheel press, Corporeal Lit, Delicate Friend, and others. She loves glitter, Ferris wheels, and waterfalls. She also loves radical empathy, vintage fashion, and carnivals. She can be found on Twitter at @RobinAKinzer and at robinkinzer.com.




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