Issue 3

Contest Winners

Allison Joseph

What Poetry Is



Is it that last piece of chocolate
you swore you would not eat,
sweet morsel left in the candy box
to devil you after you sucked down all
the others, left this sorry orphan among
tousled wrappers? Or is poetry the candy
box itself, brimming with little secrets
of cream, bits of coconut, nougat—
silver-wrapped divas so tempting
you must undress them? Or is poetry
the lover who gives you the box,
man who claims to love you, but who
hurt you so badly he had to buy you
this gaudy package, gargantuan full-pound
of vulgar calories you might as well apply
straight to your hips, hips this lover
has been hesitant to stroke, knowing
you’re so mad at him one touch may
leave him without a hand? Poetry might be
those hips all the glossy-covered magazines
want you to diet away, making you smooth,
flawless, utterly useless. But poetry is the flaw
that makes your hips want the candy,
that makes your lover think he can soothe you
with a store-bought box he didn’t even wrap,
the anger makes you throw away everything else
he’s ever given you, tossing each ring and necklace
and corset out of the window to land in the street,
ready to be picked clean by anyone stumbling by.