By Mark Cox
Featured Art: Jonny Dunn’s Sandwich Shop, Paducah, Kentucky by Walker Evans
She did not fit her body anymore—
she was lost inside it—
not like some punished child
wincing in the corner of a vast room—
not, either, like a ring fitted snug in its box—
more like the single yellow pill
in her white medicine cup—
that’s how she was, waiting—
carving precise cubes
from a thin lamb chop, chewing
with such listless fatigue,
I feared she might never finish,
and so pretended that by looking away
I was preserving her dignity.
Chewing and swallowing—
that’s how I remember her—
not as a face or even sequence of faces,
but as a complex montage,
a simultaneous superimposition
of every face she’d worn since birth.
In the parking lot, young men
were freshening the painted lines.
A jaunty, middle-aged cab driver
opened the door for me. I thought,
so, Helen, that was the last I’ll see you,
then I was driven to the airport
and sat in the seat assigned me
and unwrapped the sandwich allotted me
and chewed, but couldn’t swallow.
Mark Cox teaches in the Department of Creative Writing at UNC Wilmington and in the Vermont College MFA Program. Recent work has appeared in Brevity, 32 Poems and The Colorado Review. He has authored six volumes of poetry, most recently Readiness: Prose Poems (2018) and Sorrow Bread: Poems 1984-2015.
Originally published in NOR 15