Other Lessons

Zoë Fay-Stindt

Tell me about the god
of your childhood: that cool
shotgun metal along the fatty
innocence of your cheek,
preparing its fire for a body
just outside the woodline’s cover.
Or the shark teeth you dust off
from your ocean-dumped gravel road,
an edge to learn from. Or the hunger
in you. Or the perversions. Everyone
around you is becoming self-made,
collecting marks along their skins

though you never learn why,
only that there’s a kind of jeweling
that happens: small red gems,
collecting force. At home, one parent
steals you up the stairs
while the other pulls at your ankle
from the bottom. The salve:
a blue Poo Chi that gets caught in the rain
and makes one long glitchy whine after,
moving its mechanical body in slow motion.
Or the great big turtle shell you found
on the shore and buried in the sandbox,
telling no one so you might keep something,
though you wonder about the gone

The shark teeth help you test your casing.
You are trying to figure something out.
But with those small daggers,
you’ve managed only the slightest
opening, a scratch that quickly heals
into a thin and unimpressed mouth.

Eventually, they move on:
one bulges with pregnancy,
one recovers, one dies.
You never find out what happened
to the body you brought that fire into,
the one you watched briefly rise
with each bump the pickup flew over,
the one you showed your parents
when they came to pick you up,
proud, a little uneasy.

Months later, when you go digging
for the shell, the shield,
something has dragged it off
while you weren’t looking.


Zoë Fay-Stindt

Tomorrow I get my first mammogram.
The blonde with the beauty mark above her lip
has already pressed her fingers, rolled every fibrous corner.
She tries to reassure me: I might just have dense breasts,
might not need to worry about the toughness there. I wonder
how dense yours are, where your inflammation started,
what part of you angered first. My own puckered red,
the pores around it dimpling before quieting down again,
returning suspiciously pale. I press over and over,
sore from myself, part of me wishing my fingers
will strike something, anything, an identifiable stone.

Tomorrow, I’ll become freshly tied to you,
a new mother-daughter tradition. Flatten myself
on a cold metal shelf, hope nothing illuminates too brightly
on the monitors. I won’t tell you until we’re clear—
your brother’s sickness one too many heartaches
this month. I’ll conduct my own initiation
with the technician who shares your first name,
the pair of us two holy servants, her thin hands
arranging me for ceremony.

Zoë Fay-Stindt headshot

Zoë Fay-Stindt (she/her/figuring it out) is a bicontinental poet with roots in both the French and American south. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and has appeared or is forthcoming in Frontier, Ecotheo, SWWIM, Muzzle, and others.