Liz Bowen


does your mother know you melt like this

spittle shower
acid humid

human pulped to preserves


ate the foot and tasted saltine

tasted a bed of bodega flowers

would you taste an ethical human
I mean

would you sample the foot

obtained ethically


watermelon cheek I slurp u up

duck head melon rind

a grandmother’s portion


“is there anything you would not taste”


is there any form

over which the tongue

does not make an ugly

sovereign costume




inching fertile and perpendicular
a caress cleaves gender into gender

a spasm marks a timesheet in topsoil
first year grad school advice: procreate now

or not until tenure 
but what if I
lay thirty eggs in a hole one by one

what if I just can’t put a lid on it

contrary to popular belief
newborn labor movements need not be slapped

upon emergence /
they are leatherleaf
they respire through a thousand surface cells

in the wet dark between a rock and a
slick mantle, human desire congeals

toward the reptilian face of repulsion
borne of the impulse to eat what is loved

by the fingers
does the provost want us
eaten with fingers or a tiny fork?

to love or to be compensated
bite the hand that feeds you table scraps


Have they deigned to look at you. Have they been startled by your appearance on an otherwise sunny day. Have you blended into the carpet at the function until a cat sniffs you out. Have you grown used to being known as either quiet or infernal. Has your one good lung opened up to the institutional air. Dense and recycled. Whistling like a kettle. Mucus monarch, back at the clinic, do you trail kleenex behind you. Walking in and walking in, can you not get an appointment with the person you saw before. Do you not bother to lower your voice when you say “valacyclovir” at the pharmacy. Does your lower lip geyser each December and May like clockwork. Do you gum your way through old rice and beans in the car. Does the leftover tofu curdle in your gut. Did you know it had probably turned when you ate it. Did you pay one-sixth of your income in taxes. Did you treat yourself to a teeth cleaning anyway! But, oh, has the off-duty cop kicked you out of the room you fell asleep in on campus again. Have you spit darts at him while slinking off into the newly landscaped dirt. Do you wake up choking on mandatory reporting. Has a full professor inched up your leg. Have you kept a secret asphalt hot. Have you sat next to a toad at the bar and laughed, and hoped he wouldn’t get hungry. Have they called your three months’ thinking “too easy.” Do you hold on to the tail end of your three-hour naps like holding on to the back of a moving truck. Have you woken up, or has the truck toppled over and spilled its gelatinous contents. Carmex. KY. Undercooked lesson plans. Kraft mac and cheese. The obscenities you swallow while passing the philosophers’ names etched into the library facade. Homer Herodotus who the fuck even Sophocles Plato probably pigs Aristotle Demosthenes I eat your legacy Cicero Virgil with my public school pedigree. From whence this truck. Who ordered all this. Does it spill over at the university loading dock. Does it spill up over the edges of the bed, oh, does it pile up on your chest, does it weigh so much, like a pillar of salt. Does it weigh so much like a descending sole, does it weigh so much like a clamping beak, does it weigh so much like a collective silence, does it weigh so much like the breaking of ground, does it weigh so much like dirt from a backhoe, does it weigh so much like the long scrolls of grass rolled out across campus, does it weigh so much like the new conference building where once was a bait shop and a strip club and a laundromat, does it weigh so much like a symposium, does it weigh so much like the Modern Language Association, does it weigh so much like famous feminists’ loyalties, does it weigh so much like all the shit you know and can’t say about the men in this room, does it weigh so much like a dossier of complaints that doesn’t weigh quite enough to get a man removed from the classroom, does it weigh so much like that.

Have you woken up. The contents suck back into the truck in a flash. This time, the driver is a teamster. The truck turns around at the picket line, refuses to deliver.



LIZ BOWEN is a poet and critic living in New York. She is the author of Sugarblood (Metatron 2017) and the chapbook Compassion Fountain (Hyacinth Girl Press 2019). Her recent writing can be found in The New Inquiry, American Poetry Review, Lit Hub, Boston Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, Dream Pop Press, glitterMOB, The Wanderer, and elsewhere. She is a Ph.D. candidate in English and comparative literature at Columbia University, and a poetry editor for Peach Mag.