DEAD GIRL AS MISS SWEET POTATO PIE

Cait Weiss Orcutt

Garnet yam’s a misnomer—its inside’s

            more burnt orange than claret, more dimmed

pumpkin than red.  What did the boys carve

            into the flesh of the aloe vera? Initials

of the women they wanted to… Dead Girl

            walks through the arid desert section of the public

 

access park, McGovern Centennial, past the erotics

            of a phallic ziggurat, two men racing

up the revolutions in contest. Apples fell

            before the Trojan War as easily as they did mid-

Eden. Texas is peach, pecan, citrus country, rattlesnakes

            and loquat groves. Moving to the nursey

 

of pomegranates, persimmons, Dead Girl spots

            squash flowers at the foot of lime trees,

the gauzy petals unfurling as hard desiccated dark

green orbs test their branches up above.

Symbiosis sidles so close to the parasitic,

            the paradisaical just a shimmer

 

from pathology.  Why do straight women love

            the same devils that want them

dead? Last week, she stood on a raised bed

            the same as any springling shoot

while an older, blonder woman crowned her

            Queen of the Tuber Dessert. Dead Girl never

 

wore her crown again after that. Every tendril

            of vine is a ladder for invaders to climb.

In the ancient world, but not so ancient, Helen

            was plucked out of her story and dropped

into captivity for a white man’s epic poem.

            What for? Beauty—

 

the whole pregnant threat of it.

            As if men need a horse.

As if men need to hide.

CAIT WEISS ORCUTT’s work has appeared in Boston Review, Chautauqua, FIELD, and more. Her poems were nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and Best New Poets 2016, and her manuscript VALLEYSPEAK (Zone 3, 2017) won Zone 3 Press’ First Book Award and an IPPY Award for Poetry. Cait teaches creative writing at the University of Houston, the Salvation Army, the Menil Collection, and the Jewish Community Center, and narrative medicine for Harris Country healthcare professionals. She will be relocating to Columbus, Ohio this Fall and is the recipient of an Inprint C. Glenn Cambor/MD Anderson Foundation Fellowship.