The 2River View 16.1 (Fall 2011)

Gillian Cummings


There is one photo of me I like. A crown of daisies covers my hair, a wreath of wilting daisies wraps me. Petals crooked, warped like thorns. I look up. My chin, lifted. My mouth closed firm as if I keep a secret shared with God. As if, no matter what, He will say of my body, flesh of His flesh. You can see my breasts in this photo, the aureoles of my nipples. You can see two beauty marks on my face, one above my lip, one high on my cheek, made from black eye-pencil. I think that here I'm the Magdalene. But Jesus has said my seven demons can stay mine. Mine to be smudged with like a stranger's words: cocotte, connasse, gourgandine, grue, poule, poufiasse, putain. Mine the way father fucked me: seven times from behind, my hunched haunches like a cow's, his dick a hot prod poking, pressing, searing. Mine the way les marronniers dans le Jardin du Luxembourg drop their chestnuts with a crack, and the soft shell splits to let the hard kernel out, shiny and ready to be squirreled into ground. Papa split me that way, spreading my buttocks. God the Father split me too, for my soul sometimes can't find my body. And Jean splits me: me from my image, the girl with chestnut brown hair from the girl all shades of grey. White daisies late in the season either way. Seven demons skulking, yet none too shy to haunt a saint—


Jean didn't want to show me with a glass of wine. He thought the grapes themselves more sensual. Provocative. Thick clusters of fruit ripening. Gnarled ropes of vine. A September sky ghosting the morning's hills with fog. Sauvignon. Chenin Blanc. Muscadelle. Semillon. An aroma of melon, cinnamon, acacia—or linden blended with lemon and honey. We guessed: which tang on the tongue would tempt you? But we knew: the rootstock everywhere was American now, ever since the yellow aphid bored a hole through the heart of France. We knew: after cheap sugar copied the sweetest vintage, vignerons revolted in Languedoc, six innocents killed. But Jean, Jean—Que puis-je dire?—Jean has a sense of humor naughty as his nudes. So he said, You want those grapes like you want a man with money and a big dick, your raison d'être. And I thought: the Eucharist. I want these grapes the way the disciples wanted to swallow Christ's soul. Whole. Round. Ripe. The grapes' terroir, my terror. The seeds sunken inside, Jesus' judgment on the hard bite of my temper, opposite of these too tender teeth. So I draped the grapes over my open mouth, as if all the world could be eaten—

Gillian Cummings teaches workshops at a hospital in White Plains, New York. Her poems have appeared in Cincinnati Review, CutBank, and The Laurel Review. Her chapbook Spirits of the Humid Cloud is forthcoming from dancing girl press. contact