two poems

Courtney Garvey

Burn Warning

The priest has been burning hymns next to
the ash tray in his office for years now—
But everyone knows this. This isn’t the secret.
The secret is how everyone knew to flee as soon as
the church went up in flames. I suppose it’s smart
to have an escape plan if there’s always smoke
just out of the corner of your eye.

When the bells ring out on an easy, sunny day,
people will say it still sounds pretty.
People will not say that it sounds
like a siren that screams
This area is no longer a safe space.
This is your only warning and if
you keep falling down,
maybe it’s your own fault
and maybe you should stay on your knees.
No one likes when you say that out loud.

From that high cloud of a balcony,
the people running look like specks
of dust, like the flicks of that ash meant to save
you, like the scraps of those hymns that went up in
smoke. They look like lost children to be collected
at security, and I imagine Him shouting
didn’t force their hand even though
they forced my name.
and I imagine His promise
doesn’t mean it’s all gone bad
and I think of my own blackening vision
look how bad it has all gotten.

People mourn how he’s let the place go, but
the House that the priest burned down wasn’t really his
to begin with. It was already there, long before him,
and long after him will it stand,
smoke in the curtains and
splinters in the rug. Frantic notches in the doorframe
X days since last accident
to display growth.
It’s a shame when a house is called ugly
just because the renters are dirty.

Maybe I want to devour someone, too.

Hair like candy floss, cheeks like little apples, round and taut and
yours for the picking. Mollify me with this menu of metaphors you’re too lazy to
realize aren’t compliments but rather announcements of your intentions
to dine well and without worry for whether I want to be the main course.

Consider that I don’t like being called a peach, a slice, a snack,
maybe I don’t want to be picked, to be carved into
and consumed like the ice cream cone you get
every time you win your junior varsity soccer game. Maybe, instead,
I want to devour someone, too. 

Maybe I want to be the one to break the fruit,
to feel the syrup dribble down my own arms. Maybe I
want to be the one to suck the drippings off my fingers and lick
my lips – Christ, they’re just lips, they’re not
cherry red, they’re not plum, they’re not
some feast-for-the-eyes appetizer – without concern
for if you feel like a piece of meat. 

Yours for the picking,
I scoff. 

Consider that maybe I want to gorge myself, eat you
to your core and toss the scraps out my window
as I sail along the freeway, going, going,
gone. Maybe I want to lick the plate
clean, maybe I want to lean back afterwards and pick
the fat out from under my nails. Eve only
took a bite, but I’m telling you I want
to shake the whole damn tree. 
I’m telling you that maybe, 
just maybe,
I want to devour someone, too.

Courtney Garvey is a senior at Brandeis University studying Creative Writing, History, and European Cultural Studies. Her work has previously been published in Peach Magazine.