Portrait of a Girl in Relation to a Newspaper by Ivy Raff The girl’s spine arches over the sturdy oak table where she does her homework, head cradled in hand. She is not thinking of the charcoal-colored newsprint leaching onto the creamy skin wrapping her forearms and into the crevices of her dimpled elbows. Her eyes narrow, train on the photo of the columnist who appears every bit the Baptist minister he is. A puff of white hair floats above his jowls. The congregation feeds him well. And he has fed the girl. Her mother drops her each Wednesday afternoon at the parking lot of Jason’s Deli, where she orders a baked potato with extra cheddar, and the minister polishes off a tall turkey club nestled in a plush of green lettuce. Intent, the girl reads this week’s installment of the minister’s marriage advice column. He writes of the twenty-second kiss he shares with his wife when they first wake up, or when she comes home from her job at the deaf school, or while she prepares apple slices for their own little girl’s lunch box. The twenty-second kiss (nineteen, eighteen…) “keeps the marriage alive,” reminds him of the feisty blue-eyed girl he picked out of his Little Rock congregation so long ago. There are so many girls. The one reading the newspaper, the one with the gray-stained elbows, lets her own unkissed pink mouth, not round and not lovely, slip to the fat part of her palm. The lips and the hand seal succinctly together. The girl’s eyes are ringed with sensible brown mascara, the only makeup her mother will let her wear; she shuts them. She sucks - not too hard. The wind rushes from her nostrils. She is gone from this table, gone from this kitchen with its Lladró porcelain figurines dancing chastely around a maypole, shut up in their beveled glass cabinetry.
Hear Ivy Raff recite the poem on the Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast:
Seven Poems / Seven Poets (Olive Dwan / Crystal Mayo / Airea Johnson / Inge Sorensen / Linda McQuarrie-Bowerman / Ivy Raff / Finbar Lennon) – Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast
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Ivy Raff’s poetry appears or is forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, The Bangalore Review, Stone Canoe, Journal of Expressive Writing, and Poetry Atlas. She is a 2022 Alaska State Parks artist in residence (Fairbanks, Alaska) and was a finalist in the 2021 sweettooth//HONEY Micropoetry Contest. Ivy lives with her partner in Detroit, the contemporary and ancestral homeland of three Anishinaabe nations, where she is an active member of The Room Project’s community for women and non-binary writers. She holds degrees in Public Policy and Economics from Fordham University and CUNY Baruch College, and studied Zen Buddhist approaches to writing under Natalie Goldberg and Subhana Barzaghi. A passionate international cook and avid hiker, Ivy has wandered in over 70 countries. Read more of her work at wordsbyivy.com/publications.