Rachel Jamison Webster
The neighbors give me gin and olives
and I slosh it all over my Levis.
I feel like a real adult, I say and laugh
wondering when that will happen,
when my life will solidify around me
like a carapace made of the concentrated
proteins of my choices. The girls
are roller blading along the sidewalk
and find three cicada shells that they stick
onto their T-shirts. The boldest girl—
bold because she’s overlooked—dares
herself to bite the legs off one
and chews. What does it taste like? I ask.
I don’t think it tastes like anything,
she says, considering, then looks
me in the eye and asks if I’m surprised.
No, I say, I’m just wondering what your life
will be like if you’re already this unafraid.
She is nine and taller on her rollerblades.
I know she sees the ancient and alien
and wants to take it into her body, alchemize it
until she holds what it knows,
until she’s solved the crouch and claw
that people call other. I don’t say that
I’m her again, skating off into wind,
and also this adult drinking gin
on the lawn with her parents.
Her father is talking about the nutritional
concentration in insects—how we
should harness it to solve world starvation—
and her mother is recalling their wedding
night at the tacky hotel in the Poconos,
how they got so hungry they just ordered
a pizza. I can’t believe I’m alone again
like someone without a complete set of skin.
When I sat down on the blanket,
I found a single wing, disembodied,
filigreed and paned as leaded glass.
It was shaped for slicing the air, hefting
the armored body on its drifts.
I plucked up its little glinting chip,
and stuck it behind my ear,
because its memory of flight
seems to me worth protecting,
seems the most important thing.
Rachel Jamison Webster is author of the full-length collection of poetry, September (TriQuarterly Press 2013), the cross-genre book The Endless Unbegun (Twelve Winters 2015), and Mary is a River (Kelsay Books 2018), which was a finalist for the 2014 National Poetry Series. Her essays and poems appear in many journals and anthologies, including Tin House, Poetry, The Southern Review, The Paris Review and Narrative. She lives with her daughter Adele in Evanston, Illinois, where she teaches poetry and directs the Creative Writing Program at Northwestern University. You can read more about Rachel at www.racheljamisonwebster.com.