You Can Hear a Woman

poems by Nicole Zdeb
artwork by Nicholas Bohac

No Shortcuts

Here again, in this town we’ve never been, or always been.
The place has an emptiness as if a god just left.
The smell is still there.

Rats. Generations of them stowaways, small and crafty. We coexist.
I am waiting behind the third door.
There are too many ways to enter. It feels like a trap.
I like how your body smells in the rain.

We bring our histories to this place.

We sat on barstools and drank beer, a familiar posturing.
I removed myself. You excused me. I reproved myself.
As with the midget in the lap of the fat man,
movement is good.
This joy is not easy.

You posed questions
in a language I couldn’t cipher.
They flowed through me unstoppingly
till my body absorbed the beginning,
middle, and end.
The same body telling and untelling itself.

A watery fate, between a living river
and the stone grey sea.
We will see each other again.


Wesleyan, 1989

a guy at a frat party yanked me into the bathroom pulled down his pants sat on the toilet and held my hand while he shit wiped pulled up his pants and turned to look into the toilet Want to see it? he reached into the bowl and squished a handful through his free hand it was like art class he was having a good time he reached his hand to me and said

the abject is not disposable

then the police burst into the house because somebody lit trash on fire so we could pretend we were hobos


The Woman Who Loved Horses

Her body dispossessing her of attachment.
Can’t hear, can’t see, can’t remember. Can’t stand up.
Lost her equilibrium, sense of direction.
The map of the town blurs. Roads become rivers. Streets cut through houses.
Trees grow in church. The mind returns to the unimprinted place.
A tabla rasa. But that’s not quite right. It’s there, just jumbled.
The slow tide in bringing the bits

back into the mother self. The slow tide out
leaving glimmer and luminosity on her surface. She is beautiful in the autumn light.
She won’t see another spring.
The natural process places us firmly within it. There is no safe distance. 

She laughed her full measure,
prayed and wept and kissed in full measure.
She loved her babies.
She made bread and pies.
She cooked three meals a day for working men.
She worked in the fields.
She stitched. She spanked.
She watched her daughter self-destruct.
She buried her little lamb of God.

She whispered behind other women’s backs. She lied about their husbands. She called them loose women. She undressed men. She punished with spite. She spit on his grave. Some say she hastened him there.

She wrote letters. She paid her bills. She didn’t carry debt.
She studied the bible. She got baptized. She got saved. She talked to Jesus.
She missed her papa. She found her brother’s thumb.
She crunched apples from her own trees.
The nectar of mangoes didn’t sweeten her blood.

She forgets that she doesn’t have a husband.
Or perhaps the divorce seems trivial now, another passing phase
in a life marked by extreme seasons.

History will take her voice, but not her stories.
Spiritual inheritance doesn’t come at once, or at the end.
It accumulates. It grows brighter as her body moves closer
to micro-environments of snow.