Joan Stuart Ross  © 2005 All Rights Reserved

Stem and Sweet Smoke

Just as soon as she drew her first breath
on the stem, taking care to throw away
the plastic flower that he told her
would be bad luck, she was gone,
not gone away, not dead, but gone
to her own darkest door, the one
each of us is made to face: the choice
between accepting the idea of evil
and wanting to see for ourselves.
Cry for us all, Beauty. She turned the knob
and the door flew open; like a fist
to the face it struck her, like a kick
to the ribs, hissing Kill yourself
but donít make a mess
. It took twenty
of us to close that door, ten
days for her face to be her own again,
but just as soon as she healed, the stem
and sweet smoke were all she wanted.
Cry for us all. Who can blame the innocent
their curiosity? Who can blame the stem,
the door? They do what they must.
Justice loves beauty no more
than it loves the scorched knob of that door.

Leslie McGrath
Copyright © 2005


Leslie McGrath lives in the village of Noank, CT with her husband and a few too many pets. She has worked as a psychotherapist, an options trader and an artistís model. Her poems have appeared in the Formalist, the Connecticut Review, Nimrod, Black Warrior Review and elsewhere. Her reviews have appeared in the Cortland Review and Poet Lore. She is the winner of the 2004 Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and a Pushcart Prize nominee. She received her MFA in literature and poetry from the Bennington Writing Seminars.

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