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Sasha Debevec-McKenney

As I led the man through

the crowded restaurant

and to his table at the back

he said, you sure are packing

us in here like on slave ships

when he could have said

anything else: packing us in here

like daisies into a grocery-store

bouquet, packed together

like the pages of a wet book,

like A-listers in a Wes Anderson movie,

like hemorrhoid cream in an unopened tube,

like pennies in a pickle jar,

like forty to fifty exuberant

rural children in an underfunded

classroom, like a family of polar bears

crowded together on a floating sheet of ice—

he could have said, even,

like your ass in those jeans.

Blood in a syringe, silver compact

vehicles on the beltline at rush hour,

styrofoam tight in its cardboard box.

Yes, I was packing him in there,

like textured ground-beef material

into a Taco Bell Grilled Stuft Burrito,

like Amish girls in the back of a white van

on the way to Walmart. Like bone regrowing

inside a plaster cast. Like the flames

in a fire, like the fingers in my fist.

Sasha Debevec-McKenney is a poet who received her MFA from New York University. She was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
Originally published:
June 12, 2023

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