The Woman Who Didn’t Know How

By Maya Jewell Zeller

Featured Image: Clouds and Sunset, Jamaica by Frederic Edwin Church 1865

Her skin was too human too often, hands too happy to touch the splintered

door of a barn, too easily moved toward

a nettle, too ready to cover her mouth

when she gasped in joy, so she let

the aliens take her when they came.

They moved like question marks toward her

and she dropped the garden tools

to watch their wavy willow-like eyes, slits

of smoke their mouths flung out in nets.

They didn’t make a sound. Instead they held

signs with shimmery words to tell

what they wanted. On board,

they began to teach her restraint,

offering pudding then peeling the lid

to reveal the round torsos of bugs.

She wanted to laugh, but they asked

her to keep the noise down.

She wanted to explore, but they said

it was best if she lay back, rest a while,

it would be a long trip, would she please

just draw them a picture of a horse or a spade,

a packet of seeds they could plant

back wherever they came from. Through

the floor-holes she could see her husband

still sleeping on the lawn.

She had never wanted more badly

to tear through his loneliness,

lie softly like an animal on his chest.


Maya Jewell Zeller is the author of the interdisciplinary collaboration (with visual artist Carrie DeBacker) Alchemy For Cells & Other Beasts (Entre Rios Books, 2017), the chapbook Yesterday, the Bees (Floating Bridge Press, 2015), and the poetry collection Rust Fish (Lost Horse Press, 2011). Maya is Associate Professor for Central Washington University and Poetry Editor for Scablands Books. You can find her website at mayajewellzeller.com and her twitter @MayaJZeller.

Originally published in NOR Spring 2010.

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