3 poems, by Mae Ellen-Marie Wissert


the ditches of a tender sea

After a night out at a tiki bar, he takes a bath in his new house. This makes perfect sense. His sun is Pisces. I shimmy out of my striped bodycon dress and black platform jellies
and join him. This also makes perfect sense because my sun is Cancer. The porcelain tub
is an ocean. The water is dark like the Mariana trench. In the blackness, the nightlight glows in his eyes like an angler fish, and I am transfixed and hypnotized by their luminosity.
They are so dazzling that I would let them kill me. We are the creatures of the deep. My chelae rub warm water all over his aquatic chest. We stay in there until the sun rises and the light breaks
through the glass surface of the window above. He kisses me under outdated pink tile skies. Seagulls and pelicans pick at trash outside; except I know those are Mountain
Chickadees. Later, in his bed, he gives me an infection that stays with me for two years.

i. Shave your head and then cry about it cause you think you’re ugly

Do it.
Cut it to your skin. Hate it.
Believe that you’re too young
to be going bald.
Then get a flat tire in your Cadillac
in the dead of summer
out on the blackened highway
in the torrid rays without a hat
while you change it. Turn red.
Hurt. I rub it when it’s smooth
and with soothing aloe when it peels
and again, as the downy hair grows back
like velvet
in my wet hands. Now, tell me
I’m going to leave
you for someone with hair. Tell me
these stupid things are important to me.

ii. Tell me I’m going to be so beautiful as I age.

By this imply
that you are not going to be.
By this imply
that some people have all the luck.
By this imply
that I should feel bad about that.

Imagine me as a mom, with long nails
and greying hair. Take a black
and white picture with a 35mm
of me holding the placenta naked
in my birthing pool of blushing water
in our living room. My nipple
in the corner of the shot.

iii. Hang it on the refrigerator.

Invite everyone over, tell them to grab beers, let them see
what was inside of me. All bald and veins and violet
as you watch my milk spill
out of the baby’s soft mouth,
drip off my swollen breast,
and pool in between my thighs
as I sway in a rattan chair, the baby’s delicate
downy head attached to me. My hands
hold the world while yours quake
and reach out for what was once yours.

Bixby Bridge

Criminals fashioned that bridge trying
to earn ‘good time.’ Shortened
their punishment. Convicts
from San Quentin. Camps set up
to house them. I saw the photographs at the local museum:
cattle ranches and wild Russian Boars
and Jack Kerouac. Now, we hold
an iPad over the edge
to take a picture and laugh about dropping it. Drape our legs
over the side of that unsteady cliff. The sky
above the Pacific will flare
green like they always
say it does
right before dusk. Like a flashbulb it illuminates
my friend’s hair—
the color of the trees
that had been caught
in the wildfire
the year before. Almost amber. She took
a side-by-side as proof. Half-burnt trunks

half a close-up of her curled ponytail. Posted it on Instagram. Colorado fire,
named after the canyon
where it erupted 
next to the Fire Protection
office. I did road yoga because my stomach
hurt. Strong men on motorcycles revved
their engines as my legs
were behind my head
on a pullout on the side of the road. I coughed
on black smoke and black leather
and silver metal and sweaty bandanas. They crossed
the bridge. We’d go down
the rest of Highway 1 but stop just
before we got to Mexico. That fence
jutting out in the ocean. Big black pipes with concertina wire
framed our side. White crosses and danger
signs on theirs. Mexicans paint murals on them. Loteria cards.
Borders: Scars
on the Earth. Upside-down American
flags. Sunflowers. Headless
robot dogs to terrorize them now.
I said to myself I wouldn’t get political but Thanks
all Mr. Presidents. Charles Manson and his group
of beautiful and devoted followers
probably crossed this bridge
on their way to the fading
Spahn Ranch for homesteading and horse rides and mandatory orgies.
When we crossed the bridge, we imagined
all the men in striped uniforms traversing the spandrel columns,
and we wore the wild California poppies
in our hair too.

Mae Ellen-Marie Wissert is an undergraduate at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho. Her work has recently been published or is forthcoming in Black Rock & Sage; Midway Journal; and Children, Churches, & Daddies. She is a poetry reader for West Trade Review. She can be contacted through her Instagram, @ladyymae.