Barbara Costas-Biggs is the 2017 winner of the Split This Rock Abortion Rights Poetry Contest. Her work is forthcoming or has appeared recently in Calamus, District Lit, Literary Mama, Compose, The Oyez Review, and others. She also is a member the juried poetry series Women of Appalachia: Women Speak. She is an MFA candidate at Queens University of Charlotte.
Intervention for the Intervention Specialist
There is a small dive bar just over the Ohio
Indiana line where you can still smoke indoors
and feed bills into a jukebox.
This is where you choose to write
your dissertation, away from clinging
children, from dishes crusted with breakfast,
from your husband.
The St. Pauli girl flickers above your curls.
Terms like functional behavioral assessment and
response to intervention line the pages and you realize
that you are not a savior. The boy from your class
that you hire to mow your lawn
will always steal from your purse
while you run to the carryout. You love them, they
slash your tires. You will never lose
that drowning feeling when you click your car
door locked in the school parking lot.
The corn fields outside hold on to the warmth
of the day. The sunset is the same color
as the draft beer sweating in front of you.
Poem in which My Body calls me a Bitch
My body is screaming at me: Bitch
you are 40 years old and cannot do
this to yourself anymore.
96 hours of drinking
and your father is still dead.
You’re late to the drop-off
line in the morning, head
pounding with each pothole
each chirp of each damn
bird. Your synapses spin
and tumble, bottles without
notes sent out to sea.
I can’t sweet talk my body.
It knows how I lie.
Through my teeth.
Like a rug.
Lie like a dog.
I speak to my Husband from inside a Whale
A blue whale’s tongue is heavy as an elephant.
Its tail, the wingspan of a propeller plane.
Its heart like a Volkswagen, protected by a ribcage
I could move a sofa into, hang art, pour a beer.
My tongue sometimes gets heavy, uses up excuses and
fails, again and again. Your name is always
there, yet I forget you made me whole. Instead,
I tell you you left flatware in the sink, unwashed.
This whale that I have made my home inside of
can glide, eludes all human contact, waves
nothing but that great tail, no trace of above
water breathing. Oh, secretive mammal,
largest of animals: our path propels
us far into the distance, only to be called
back to the same place again and again.
Stockholm, or New Letter to an old Lover
I don’t have a coat heavy enough for
the weather in Stockholm. It’s where you live
now, amongst, I imagine, blondes
in snow boots, blondes in high-collared coats
blondes and blondes and blondes.
I picture the street signs a bit rusted
at the edges, years of snow pack and salt melt.
Picture the streets empty, the men and
women quiet, huddled around fireplaces
wishing the sun might finally rise again.
All guessing, all wondering on my end.
In pictures, the city is yellow buildings,
blue sky. I don’t buy it.
You could tell me that Stockholm radiates
with saved light from the summer months
when the sun goes down in winter
and I would feel pulled there. I know that.
But in the back of my mind, I would
be thinking only of pickled herring, snowshoes.
In Stockholm, which I admit, I confuse
with Copenhagen, with Oslo and Tromso,
I don’t think I’d be content.
Too much darkness, then too
much light. In all-or-nothing situations,
I always stand frozen.