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To Eat With Her Hands, by Joni Renee

It’s Monday, and I’m thinking about the body as a public offering and the women who have eagerly, and with such generous intentions, congratulated me. I’ve lost thirty pounds, and there’s no dependable way to prevent women from remarking and celebrating. How should I tell them.

About this year and its majority of days, horizontal, inert, missing my ex-wife too much to move, breathe, or eat.

What they don’t teach you in health class is that the reward of peers’ esteem is so sweet, and that when you become smaller, you gain access to their private interior, a sumptuous world of fitting, sharing. Let me paint you something better.

Maybe you’ve heard of Paradise
as a place where a woman with beautiful
brown eyes feeds you grapes. I have been to that place.
I have tasted, as well:
edible wildflowers on Dog Mountain,
zest, grated from her mother’s pomelo garden,
broad tagliatelle with porcini and wild boar
in the triangular square of San Gimignano,
the pleasure of the word “wife”.

To eat is to nourish the Self with color and carbon,
to stake a claim on the future and send energy towards it.
Thus I’ve tasted:
delicate fish after making camp in the San Juan Islands,
contentment on the floor of a new apartment and just enough change
for one Tom Ka Gai to share,
her favorite sandwiches, packed for picnics,
watching her rub sunscreen into my thighs.

What future can exist beyond then (who would go there, and why?)
when I’ve already tasted:
wafers of Abrahamic faiths,
pancit, adobo, lechon,
the relief that comes with routine,
stomped pinot mash from the vineyards of my hometown,
vibrant tannins converting to sugar,
all adding layers, layers, layers.

Imagine if we celebrated the woman who’s learned to eat with her bare hands, to fuel and wrap herself.
Well? Tell me: when you eat, do you think of your love?
When you sleep, do you dream of pressing warm loaves into their hands?
I know I do.
I know I do.


JONI RENEE is an artist from rural Oregon. Her work has been shared on such diverse stages as The Moth in Portland, the Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts in Costa Mesa, California, and the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn in partnership with the Morpheus Youth ProjectHer writing explores themes of nature, family, and the queer body, and has appeared or is forthcoming in EclecticaPivotSmeuseSuperstition ReviewxoJane, and The Write LaunchHer poetry chapbook, Your Full Real Name, was published in 2017.