bed and breakfast
Winter Contest, 2022
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
G.W. Carver Center for the Arts and Technology
to all who may ask for directions, i am sorry, i cannot swallow your language.
i arrive late. let’s call this a forest—
even streets decay here, chimneys smoking red mushroom caps.
tomorrow, i have a date, so i arrive. my cheeks flush with grime.
folding bullfrog-bowed legs and a bathrobe, he pats the kitchen table.
been here before? he asks through his hat.
i’ve never eaten, i say. i am here to meet my love in new york city.
above the plates is a prophet, so i must be honest.
behind rooted curtains are the doves, white as chainsmokers,
ghosts chiding at the window with wide mouths.
squares of iron on the ceiling rattle, filled with food. eat anything,
he says, except dead animals and smoke. i nod. either they are sin or sacred,
and here is a prophet, petal-smooth, eyes closed like sunlight.
here is a garden. paint-smeared fire escapes,
tumbling cataract cardboard. swipes of blue groves scratch each other’s fleas,
and smoke—green, chlorophyll, cat of nine tails—smoke like a caterpillar,
like rumbling fifty-cent disposals, cars keeling and choking the sunset
as the moon chews and rolls and sucks tobacco marrow from the clouds.
missing windows could be lit. morning scrabbles at the grass. already,
mourning doves coo, wired to the walls in high spirits.
a rich sutra river, sticking to the night of my body like gums,
chants, if the prophet is coming, he too must stop and eat.
you know your way around? he asks. yes, and when sun rises
i lead my love astray between the streets. i could say i lied to hold her hand,
but i must admit, i wish to learn how half-dead animals are eaten.
a silent consumption. the leaves first, the frog legs, the red caps.
then the tongue of the sky, then the prophets—then all new york city—then me.
Reading [this] poem felt a little bit like taking a long, winding journey, almost like falling down the rabbit hole… This sense of whimsy and entering a new, fantastical world fits really well with the art piece.
Avery H. Yoder-Wells (they/them) is a sophomore studying creative writing. They sing in a treble choir and enjoy collecting useless facts to inflict on others. On weekends, they can be found bothering their two cats and lurking at @averyotherwise.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR