Entrée Versus Lightning, Round One

by LESLEY WHEELER

On the fork, milky packages of cramps and migraine. My fortune spelled in cream sauce. Three days of doubling over. If I had pushed the plate away: static charge, the other guests counting seconds. So I bolted the pain. Things I have done to be polite: worn ugly clothes; absorbed the insult; let boys grope me in the dark. Their astraphobia. My dampened power. Stupid, isn’t it, to bring all this to dinner. When I was a girl they dreaded what I’d say, and their fear ran through me in blue jolts. I was learning my desire. And then the circuits burnt, no path for the return stroke. All I can do is pose my face in the shape of yes until there is no real wanting anymore. My joints inflamed, my gut all twisted by the voltage. And there they sit, congealing on the stoneware, the allergenic crêpes, daring me to hurl that luminous refusal.





LESLEY WHEELER’s poetry collections include Heterotopia, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize; Heathen; and the forthcoming The Receptionist and Other Tales. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, Slate, AGNI, and others. Her blog, “The cave, the hive,” can be found at lesleywheeler.org. She is the Henry S. Fox Professor of English at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.