Claudia Monpere’s poems and fiction appear in such journals as New Ohio Review, Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, The Cincinnati Review, The Bellevue Review, Psaltery and Lyre, and in many anthologies, including California Fire and Water: a Climate Crisis Anthology. She recently completed a Hedgebrook residency in poetry, and teaches writing at Santa Clara University.
Poem on Belonging
THE TIME YOU ARE REQUIRED TO SHELTER such as during your brother-in-law’s speeches about how he got rid of the aphids/ cutworms/ beetles. Endless stories of garlic repellent sprays and neem oil, tuna fish cans filled with beer. Lurking outside: viruses with low settling velocity. Airborn for hours. Inside you’ve got your hall of mirrors, labyrinth, maze. You’ve got your ball of yarn that the cat keeps stealing. Ripped shades. Be warned. Duct tape is not the answer. Stickyweed, cleavers, goosegrass—whatever gumminess you need is there—in your brother-in-law’s neglected side yard, far from his tidy rows of peppers, kale, carrots. You wander among his dahlias—elfin pompoms, fidalgo splash, crichton honey, duet. Happy single wink. (Who comes up with these names? How did you find yourself sheltering in place with your sister’s family?) Remember the last grocery store run. You and your brother-in-law in line outside the store at 5:00 am, and later the flash of grocery carts locusting bread, beans, whole-grain bulgur wheat. Swarming aisle 6. A cart topped by towers of toilet paper and still your brother-in-law reaches for more. Then a long, loud wail. An old woman dropping a pack of toilet paper, someone snatching it from the floor. You remember how your brother-in-law stops reaching for the highest shelf, turns to her, whispers something. And you follow the two carts, hers empty, and you have never seen anything as beautiful— no, not even his moonfire dahlias flecked with gold— as him emptying the white towers from his cart into hers.
Copyright © 2022 by Claudia Monpere. This poem originally appeared in Migozine Spring 2020.