After You’ve Saved a Life
by Jonie McIntire
A poetry book chosen at random—on the cover,
a grotesque of birds and woman in abstract
with title and author, rimmed by words like
fresh and raw and innovative. Inside,
everyone has a rapist, eats their menstrual blood
for strength, lives next door to a late teen
blonde with pigtails and pink sweater
long legs and a masters in blow job technique.
Here, we all end up puking or cutting at night
and by morning can’t explain how we got
fucked. If I’m reading this book right.
In high school, I worked on a suicide hotline.
Waited the long hours of quiet for the ring
that could mean loneliness or could mean
gun-ready stopme. You had to get past
a lot of panting what are you wearing and
you sound pretty. Lonesome shut-ins called most often,
but every once in a while, a sophomore feeling trapped,
an alcoholic divorcing. In the real world,
when that call comes in with none of the pomp
but all of the planned action, you have to use another line
to call the police. Don’t let them go, do whatever
you can to keep them on.
Award-winning book still open bed-side,
I fall asleep remembering, start to dream
that my house becomes the call center,
trained to the sounds of pain humming its tune.
I fill my house with those of us who’d
reached out before but slippery finger lost
our loved ones to their self-inflicted conviction.
I’d gather the poet, the woman, the men, the girl next door,
the bird in the poem near the end—trapped and torturous—
gather them up like fresh biscuits in a bowl,
hugged tight to soft breasts and carried to the table,
set out before the volunteers who listen closely,
who don’t lick at wounds and say how sexy,
the what’s your plan and do you have a safe place to go,
the stay where you are ones who say please
and reach for butter that has been out all day
so it’s soft and waiting with jam canned by hand
no sugar added but seeds removed, and we try
to fill our bellies before returning to the long
wait where we practice Hello,
I’m here to help you.
Ohio poet Jonie McIntire is the author of chapbooks Semidomesticated (Red Flag Poetry, 2021), Beyond the Sidewalk (Nightballet Press, 2017), and Not All Who Are Lost Wander (Finishing Line Press, 2016), and she hosts the reading series Uncloistered Poetry. Her writing has been published across the US and even stamped into cement as part of the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo’s Sidewalk Poetry series. https://www.joniemcintire.net.