Rita Mae Reese


How to Lose a Leg  

First you must enter the woods.           No, the woods must enter you.           So stand very

still and think of something else.

This is easier if you are a girl, an only child, lonely.             If

your head is in books, in the clouds, in clouds of books.             If you are,

right now, thinking about King Midas.             Not the goldfinger of Midas

but the donkey ears.             And not King Midas really but his barber. Not

the barber taking off the king’s hat             but the barber digging a hole             and

shouting into it             King Midas has donkey ears!             About the itch of

those words in your throat.                              Inside the pockets

of your father’s field jacket             your hands cup two dead quails.

Despite the birds        you must not think

about guns.             You are not sentimental about birds or death        —this is why

he brings you. Don’t think about birds

or him,                      think only about Midas, about donkey ears. Then

the loudest shot you’ve ever heard.             It is the sound

of the ground opening beneath you.             It is

the birds and the trees and the air

       shouting you down into the hole.


What Her Mother Knew When She Heard

That she is a three-legged beast
with two weak hearts

That the dogs are now wolves
the birds all crows
the girls are all sticks
and the boys all stones


Rita Mae Reese has received a Paumanok Poetry Prize, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, a Stegner fellowship, and a “Discovery”/The Nation award. Her poems and stories have appeared in dozens of journals. Her first book, The Alphabet Conspiracy, was published by Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press. She is currently working on a book of poetry about Flannery O’Connor entitled The Book of Hulga. You can visit her online at www.ritamaereese.com bio-rita