“Sweep Up a Tree” © Bonnie Matthews Brock


Results From the Spit Test Are In

At night my father left his teeth on the sink. In that way
you can take part of yourself out of yourself and leave it,

we understood each other. Flesh and blood are nothing.
Tendons are the stuff that hold all the other stuff

together. The parts of me pulled thin as spider silk
tie me to a different beach, a different country altogether.

Breath is the blood of the lung and we are all diseased.
Stories sleep in us waiting for the axe, the wake-up call

to arms. Every family crest is capped with deceit.
You activate, conspire without me, hoping

I won’t notice. Standing at the edge of a sandbar I imagine
a quarry. My people come from hearty stock: rocks and

long rows of potatoes. If absorb means to incorporate,
stop telling me to suck it up and play it safe. This small

state is nothing but a platform constantly beaten down
by storm waves. Batten down all your hatches, ye

who enter here. I’m on my knees. How sovereign
is this nation? I know another language but it’s whack,

diluted in my marrow. I can’t access the phrases in Italian
to decipher my grandmother’s recipe for meatballs. Like a bonfire

the narrative rages and I throw all the branches
I can get my hands on. Sorry for all the questions, but I’m

asking for a friend and she’s grown desperate.
A definition is as important as a mirror. Hold it up. Hold up

your end of the bargain or the bed. This gun won’t
pull its own trigger. Water from the tub overflows through

the ceiling and the lights shake. It’s nothing
to be angry about. Strike another match. Send out

more invitations to this rager. This and that press the tongue
against its cage. Mine is brittle, inherited that way. I’ll likely

die without any of my own teeth. Who cares? I’ll still be able
to pronounce my fears. Brother, can you not see me through the screen?


When Crystal Karlberg is not writing, she is an assistant to the librarian at her local library and a speaker for Greater Boston PFLAG.

Bonnie Matthews Brock is a Florida-based photographer, as well as a school psychologist. Her images have been published in Ibbetson Street, The Somerville Times, Oddball Magazine, Beyond Words Literary Magazine, and Wild Roof Journal. Her work is archived at Harvard University, the University of Buffalo, and Poets House in NYC. Bonnie loves to capture, in images, a very wide range of subjects, and to learn and experiment with shooting and editing techniques.