The old woman who hands you an apple
I always eat what I eat, alone. So
true, that what spills from our lips
has a life of its own. Flowers, jewels,
toads, and bones: I speak in streamers
to cast my spells.
You, you swallow what you cannot keep:
gingerbread children, a red riding cape,
a river stone heated to make stone soup.
You give it all back to me at the crossroads.
I stitch what I know, and it unravels in your hair:
a ribbon, a kerchief, a scarf for the mourning.
Come bite of my apple and then, truly know.
My hand sheds snakes and shakes
and I will not scream. Girl, I carry all your stories
like wolves carry the disease.
© 2017 by Betsy Aoki
Elizabeth (Betsy) Aoki has received fellowships from the City of Seattle, Artist Trust Foundation, Jackstraw Writers Program, and Hedgebrook. She won the Nassau Review’s Writer Award for 2015, and attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2016. Her poetry publications include the chapbook, Every Vanish Leaves Its Trace by Finishing Line Press, inclusion in the Asian American female poets’ anthology Yellow as Turmeric, Fragrant as Cloves, and poems placed in The Seattle Times, The Midway Journal, Phoebe, terrain.org, Seattle Review, Poetry Northwest, Calyx, Asian Pacific Journal, and the Hawai’i Pacific Review.