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 and her twitter @MayaJZeller.

Originally appeared in NOR 7

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