She, Them, His

How had the first meeting gone so badly? We had wanted this.
We arranged it over months, down to the forks and stockings.

I spoke of my past and the thorny lessons, the pills I took 
And refused, the straining of my arms to measure her.

It must’ve worked too well. The explanation is that we folded
Together like old clothes, seam to zipper. It’s intolerable, lying

On top of her, or her on me, the loss of vision all hers,
The loss of movement all mine, and here we are, 

Some kind of crooked ghost-smile, a laugh 
And a long tendentious premise, bullet points,

Stained like towels, torn like sheets, scrubbed off like soap.
It’s what women must come to. We throb in a heap.


Keep it simple or she’ll hate you. Keep it simple or she’ll
Hurt you. Keep it simple or she’ll pay her friends to gang up

All over you. They tear your clothes off from the neck down
To make you understand they’re what there is now. Simple silent.

Simple silent says: simple weapon, rough rock in warm pool.
Two of them, one of you, keep it simple or you’re screwed.

They also stand before flowers without directing seeds to soil.
They also forget what they said. They also forget your name. 


When I speak, I do so as a woman. Speaking as a woman, I say,
And then I go on too long. I might talk about men 

Or I might say I’m proud of what we chose,
Whoever I mean by “we,” whatever I mean by “choice.”  

But when you speak of me, you see double. I might as well be twins, 
Two eyes, two legs, two big ideas, you know the rest.  Your noose 

Tickles my neck. Verbs, moving,
Like hedge clippers or bandages or calculators or winches,

I mean tools in the garage. They’re useful, like me, 
And when they get rusty at the hands of the lazy gardener 

Just order more. When I own my own clippers, 
That’s how I handle them, a history of clippers, 

Like a man’s tools, in a man’s shed, in a man’s big box. 
I say keep it simple, stupid, come here

Where I can lay my smooch on you, so you know it means
I could pucker up and remove the marrow 

From your eye bone and your thigh bone and your die bone,
And if you died, that would be simple enough.

The Usual Explanation

One solid job to do, one easy piece of work,
and you can’t manage. You’re a plane ripping 
out the last moments of sky on one sore
engine. Your voice creaks like hinges, 
your hand shakes on the rusted knob. 
Slam the door and you continue to knock. 
The chimes of shame ring for you. They peal
above the city where you push your cart
laden with the ash of hope no one can see 
but you as you rub it between your palms. 
All anyone wants of you is nothing. 
But you push, you make your face ugly 
with hard desire, longing to marry 
above you, into the family that owns
the land, paying its workers in dull bread.


Honestly, you should’ve worn better clothes.  
Now when we look at you our eyes count 
the threads in the fabric and come up short. 
So few they are like the puzzle of you,
who will not go away, who will not fit
your body in the slot, twisting to click
the tumblers. There was never enough 
of you to fly where you attempted.
There is the vast dry earth, coughing 
its crooked cancers, where the gelatin drops
of your bleeding, your ceaseless feeding,
soak in fast, and nothing grows. 
When we see you marching along
with your voice tuned to the heavens,
you sing your best song into silence. 

Yes Men

       they were yes men 
seeking yes men
       good men 
speaking the good word
       to men of few words
men of hands to shake
       with a firm grip
they had an image
       they meant to uphold
they were tall men
       used to standing up
for the same old 
       nodding plodding men
they were virtuous men
       so their wives said
who wore the back half
       of the mule suit
to the parties
       where the nose count
came up missing
       all the no men
and the woe men
       they were trouble
for the yes men
       who caught them talking
who caught them laughing
       at the yes men
in their black clothes
       not like black crows
more like starlings
       all the same men
not so smart men
       don’t ask questions
they can’t answer
       they say their pay grade
is too high to know
       they refer you
to the secretary
       they return to
       with their best friends
the other yes men
       and yes girls
can’t be raped girls				
       don’t resist girls
just say yes girls
       just smile pretty
when he tells you
       you’re his favorite
little yes girl
       he’s a yes man needing yesses
for his blesses
       he’s a church man
searching for peace man
       in his tall clothes
with his shovel
       digging your grave
chiding gently
       until he thinks he sees
you defying
       his same old same old
his sternest judgments
       yes men say yes to
men of few words
       only one word
his hand’s extended
       it’s up to you now
to reject it
       but it’s a sin to him
in his yes mind
       and his yes team
gets up from their chairs
       in the gallery
and come toward you
       with their parchment
and their ballpoint pens
       just sign here ma’am
just say yes sir
       to what we ask you
we promise to go easy
       and you want to
have it easy it’s tempting
       to take it easy
and then you turn
       and see behind you
a line of no men
       some of them woe men
it’s an omen
       not to give in


Corrections, palpable as plums.
They’re ready for me to slice into,
but my knife is not yet sharp so
I wait. Behind us stands—shifts—
the idea of resolution, 
tall in a slate wet trench.
That’s what it will look like if I 
lift the blade to the error at 
the (right) necessary angle. 
You know the speed of the skill,
to let up the pressure—worse 
than breaking through egg yolk, say, 
tomato’s closer, and wrong
throws seeds in a spray. So there’s that. 

About the Author:

Lisa Lewis has published six books of poetry, most recently Taxonomy of the Missing (The Word Works, 2018), The Body Double (Georgetown Review Press, 2016), and a chapbook titled The Borrowing Days (Emrys Press, 2021). Her recent work appears or is forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Gulf CoastAgni OnlineInterim, Posit, Diode, Florida Review, and elsewhere. She directs the creative writing program at Oklahoma State University and serves as editor of the Cimarron Review

Image by Joyce McCown/ Unsplash