The Torrid Zone
{An Umbrella Special Feature}

Michelle McEwan

has had poems published in Best New Poets 2007 (an anthology) and online at Big City Lit.

With a B.A. in English Writing from the University of Pittsburgh, she also has had several poems published in university literary magazines. She lives, dreams, and writes in central Connecticut.

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Close Sleeping

But if we sleep this close, tangled in our Friday night lavender
sheets, our cold ashy feet will meet
and I will have to turn over on my back, split my stick-legs
like scissors.
But if we sleep this close, the sharp bones of our ankles
will rub together the way two pennies do when you have it—
reminding me of that afternoon
when we first met
at that bank on Wintonbury Avenue—cashing in
our pennies, our we-need-bread-&-eggs-&-milk pennies. But
if we sleep this close, that Murray’s Superior Hair Dressing Pomade
will push full into the cool blacks of my nostrils
and it will get me to thinking back to our wedding day
and how my two-year-old black dress from Nadine’s Dress Shoppe
and your wrinkled suit from Sage Allen’s didn’t matter
and how that Pomade, all caked in your hair, made it wavy overnight
and how my belly poked loudly through
my 99 cent nylons,
my dress.
And the heavier my breasts became and the rounder my belly got
the more your “you-know-I-care-’bout-you-Sarah-Nell” kind of love
In that beer stained booth, in the cramped corner
of Maybelle’s Restaurant, by the broke jukebox
was our reception—
just us two, a large cheese pizza, onion rings, cheesecake
New York style, and a gang of Italian men,
from Boston, packed like roaches in the booth behind us
cutting off their R’s. But
if we sleep this close, my fingers will creep up
your back until you move, curl up
like our baby boy; this is when I will pull
my fingers quickly away,
let you think it is a corner of sheet;
a fly.
But if we sleep this close, tangled in our Saturday morning lavender
sheets, my big toe will linger
too long against the soles of your feet
and I may have to
unlearn what grandma taught and climb on top—
my sugar.


The Browning of Cousin Tippy

While your mother is down
in Fayetteville, you play
in the sun; you let

those mean-well rays
find you, linger on
your collarbone & brown

the lion-color of
your thighs, toes,
knees, neck, face; sliver of
belly. By tomorrow

you will be
the brown old rough
shade of bruises or rust and when

your mother gets home,
you will have to stay inside
until you are the fine, full

shade of lion again.