Because We Were Starving

Two Poems by Millicent A. A. Graham

Because We Were Starving

The Game

But say the two of us in a domino game a hold hard-end,
I working with you, my Pardy-P, but you, you playing cut throat.
I turn over the second-to-last bone and expose
the hard key, rising, I slap the bone on the table. Call double blank.
The dart of your tongue to tap, your top lip is a sharp tell.
The serpent, pleased with this sacrifice.

The man you have passed, leg jumps and threatens the board that
we all here balancing. My hand resting against ply has rattled more than
the ‘L’ of bones. Dotless, the sky shifts above us. The goat-eye moon
shifts from player to player. You rock back. The stars have not been shuffled
in their orbit. The Milky Way is still here, beautiful gash —

We could have given them 6 love. Make them get up and go home.
Winning; this taste sprung in my mouth, cheek grazing the udder.
They could have scattered, left us with our knees pressed together,
keeping the plate of bones from falling, our necks strained in the
observation of stars.

But say the one who was after me swallowed the pass,
turned over hand, let go of her single play, shuffled
the constellation. Knew — 
To win, I should have blocked the game.

The Bet

Because we were starving, we hunted through the cupboards,
fetched a pot, filled the pot with water and bet marbles to see
who could drink the most. On a count of three, we filled our
beakers, filled our mouths, gulped faster, faster than we could
pour. Our chins dripped. Drenched, the water ran down our necks,
soaked our t-shirts, ran down our knuckles to our elbows. I looked
at Howie; face fat as a fish, his pouty lips taking in more and more.
We could have drowned, the two of us soaked down to our navy
blue socks, as we bailed the water ’til the pot ran dry.

In a yard, two staggered like sailors, and meowed as their bellies
slopped around in floppy clothes, and felt so sickly-round, they
could have been mistaken for being with young. They hugged each other
and zig-zagged to the back porch where they capsized and sunned and slept
and slept on the terrazzo tile, marble and pacific. I wish they could have
saved one another at some point, or other.

Millicent A. A. Graham is the author of The Damp in Things and a fellow of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. She was awarded the Michael and Marylee Fairbanks International Fellowship to Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference in 2010. Her work has been published in Bearing Witness II, BIM, Callaloo, Caribbean Writer, City Lighthouse, The Jamaica Journal, and So Much Things to Say: 100 Calabash Poets.

About the Author

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