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.

Betsy Aoki

Elizabeth (Betsy) Aoki has received poetry fellowships from the City of Seattle, Artist Trust Foundation, Jackstraw Writers Program, and Hedgebrook. Her MFA is from the University of Washington, and she attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop. Her poetry publications include the chapbook, Every Vanish Leaves Its Trace by Finishing Line Press, and inclusion in the Asian American female poets’ anthology Yellow as Turmeric, Fragrant as Cloves. She has a short story in the forthcoming Upper Rubber Boot Books’ anthology, Sharp & Sugar Tooth: Women Up to No Good.

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