The Iowa Review

"Poetry Man"
                 after Phoebe Snow

To recall the cull of this life.

That one must harvest by selective annulment
the body they will wed

                      and the body they will hustle
from dress to tongue on the sly 

                                                    for days
I lay as a flank in my lover's maw

                      swathed in wine while warm
winds frisked the wisteria.

It was innocent.

He lashed my wrist to the mast.
He tied my blind because I wanted

to be battered in the swell
                     and blossoms purple still
any place he pressed his mouth
any place

I asked for it.
By now I know, I begged:
relieve your mouth its bland aperture

Talk to me some more.


Home's that place     somewhere    you go each day

In absence of his finger I have conveyed to my teeth
a relentless procession of corn chips, zoned out

on the bedroom wall.
Little my tongue does for the hole it circumnavigates.

It was a clear day, sun jigging figures from the leaves
on the alien green of College Park
                                            I was ocular in his arms

an enormous pupil, blown open.

                            We knew the hour had come
by the way the light collected

raptured to several heavens
there's no need to choose.


If choice is obviated   "Le Paradis n'est pas artificiel"

his letter begins, anxiety of what is
in back of each long note.

He compares me to a garden    "Why weed what winter will kill?"

Fidelity is perennial, survives the cold    cloaked as a peony.


He wishes me a grand carouse at the local dive, a dry
bottom bun for my rubber burger
and another man's sex         bashful boy.


do not touch the stove you will

fuse to its element    slaver over
the burn.           You don't have to go. 

You're hiding something sweet
from this swollen thumb

and from these glossy welts derives
the suspicion that I am truly sick.

Monstrously wooed by these
reports of injury,  he admits 

          "its invocation of parts. You have a thumb. Eyes."

Instruments of agency.     Logic divides
pleasure from having
                                            give it to me

All Medea's remonstrations ended on a blade,
downed in the poisoned mug, draped in the tainted gown

but she never howled
when love departed

she muscled out to meet him.


The Iowa Review

Founded in 1970 and edited by faculty, students, and staff from the renowned writing and literature programs at the University of Iowa, The Iowa Review takes advantage of this rich environment for literary collaboration to create a worldwide conversation among those who read and write contemporary literature.
     They publish a wide range of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, translations, photography, and work in emerging forms by both established and emerging writers. Work from their pages has been consistently selected to appear in the anthologies Best American Essays, Best American Short Stories, Best American Poetry, The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, and The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories.

The Iowa Review online


Lisa Wells is a poet and essayist from Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, The Iowa Review, The Believer, Best New Poets, Denver Quarterly, Third Coast and elsewhere. She was a 2015 Emerging Writer in Residence at Yale-NUS in Singapore, and holds an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her essay collection Believers is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus & Giroux. She lives in Tucson, Arizona with the poet Joshua Marie Wilkinson.

This page was first displayed
on December 15, 2016

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