QUARTO: Two Poems by J.J. Starr

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The Bikini

You’re just so darn cute
She tugged up the cheeks of my swimsuit 

shown two small pears, fleshy & bright
bookending the neon green fabric—this was the 90s

my first two-piece & I thought I was a big girl
despite every comment about my size: petite, skinny, 

thread-and-thimble thin, string bean. Strangers
would say so & that I was pleasingly blond

curly, a little Shirley with a temple, a future
temptation. She wanted me to claim what had been taken

from her body too young—she wanted me to claim it
by showing it off, flaunt it if you got it even if you’re six.

I loved her then, abandoning myself. I loved her
the way a dog pulls meat from a bone

the eyes like twin flames. Just another
animal. She said I love you

to anyone, my mother.



I hold on, I hold everything I can, to capacity
hold like the handle I wore paint from
bought for 50 on sale at Home
Depot & I liked it, slipping hands around it
liked it best in the moonlight throwing
silver on the snow, all the quiet hibernations
across from me a dark field of sage specked
by track lines. Not elk, surely too late
in the season for this altitude. The goats then
who else could wander silently as a group of houses
billowed chimneys behind them. Beyond the field
a team of mountains sleeping in a heap.
All that silent night, if I screamed into it, nothing
but echoes. I want to scream into it
because a room has never been big enough for me.
& I want the echo—I want the curse
the flame. When I wrap my fingers around
that solid handle which come to think of it I bought
at Farm & Fleet for 43 because same thing better deal
(the guy at the counter told me I’d have to swing it hard
if I didn’t keep it sharp) I start by measuring the log
in two with the edge of the blade, then wind up
I can’t claim to understand the violence but the tree
was dead before I found it—bringing down the head
the splinter & crack. I loved when it worked in one swoop
when it took 20 whacks to work around the knots
& branches which came out like arms, her pulling
my hair as she whispered rat’s nest,
bring it down into the big stump, to stoop
& gather shreds, pulling her from it as I leave
leaning her against the wall just inside the door
dropping the load xylophonic to the floor.