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Mother’s rule is fitted tight: white tapes
brought round and tied, borders, bindings
against injustice, cutting rags, doubled

flesh into spirit. Only searching near
will take you to the come-down ways,
those dusty yard-bound children,

never graded, mere scratches in the dirt.
Walk them up to granite shelves ground
into bowls by shuffles and face a valve

of oak. Why is the knocker set high
as a tall man’s stovepipe hat, knob
missing? Same law for welcome, same

for refusal. Brothers, sisters, once inside
this carton of engines for portioning stars,
this hotbed, keep to one side. Here flints

sleep next to tinder, matches near the stove.
For generation belongs to the world,
and marriage beds every private vice.

O daughter, who would take her treasure
to market? Steal away home, rush not
to the altar, for what a man feeds, he controls.



Mary Kaiser’s chapbook, Falling into Velásquez, won the 2006 Slapering Hol Award. Her poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, Cincinnati Review, and Portland Review. Her poem in this issue comes from a collection about the nineteenth-century Shaker community at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.




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