Joanna Fuhrman

President’s Day

Before George, there was another
first president,

his flesh carved
from the body
of a cherry tree,
veins full of
pre-linguistic vowels,                primordial auburn sludge.

They say it was he

who divided the states               into genders:

the South, a buoyant mouse-
hearted femme fatale,
the North,

male as an oak or the word “oak”
in the crease of a dusty forestry textbook.

I am telling a lie.

The first president’s face couldn’t bear fruit.
Instead of lips, there was a branding iron.

When he kissed,                he burned
his partner’s lips (my lips?),               so they

looked like            his lips.

Not too ugly, but when I sucked on them
they tasted            like hate.

When the rivers voted for him,
the earth cratered in shame.

We made love in the mud,
but it wasn’t love, and his brain

seeped into my brain until I became
the President and he became the slave,

became the wife,      the broken broom
and the cracking sky.

I felt the power of that,
but wanted more than power,

so I said,
“let’s start over,”           but

the fires had already           started
and there was water

in my iron shoes
and in the glass archive

I thought was his (or my)
brain and in my agate-

lightning-full eyes, so all
that was left of our romance

was the skin              that created it,
was the sound of the paper skin,

creasing, and ripping, when the other
first president’s axe            finally hit.

This Tyger Burns the Bones of William Blake
(Or, Self-Portrait as Poem)

The body of the text
resembles me
before plastic surgery.

The idea of the text
resembles me
after.

Death isn’t
plural,
just two-faced.

If you want to become
the red dress
of poetry,

you need to wear
control-top
pantyhose.

Without those
terminal
constraints

language
would be
liquid wasp:

a head devoured
by milky synapses
and need.

Joanna Fuhrman is the author of five books of poetry, most recently The Year of Yellow Butterflies (Hanging Loose Press 2015) and Pageant (Alice James Books 2009). She teaches poetry at Rutgers University, Sarah Lawerence Writers’ Village for teens, and in private workshops for adults.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the editor of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of eight books and chapbooks, including This Visit (Blazevox, 2015), How to be Another (Cervena Barva Press, 2014), and State of the Union (Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2014). Her ninth book, Heisenberg’s Salon, is available now for pre-order from Blazevox. Her poetry has appeared in such places as The Awl, Berkeley Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Cimarron, Gargoyle, The Journal, The New Orleans Review, Prelude, Raritan, Seneca Review, So to Speak, Verse, and Verse Daily.