He Said He Knew of a Place
Where We Could Swim
by Jin Cordaro

So the three of us squeezed into
the front of his unfamiliar truck.
Every time he shifted, his hand
darted out to brush my thigh
quick and whole, like a large
fish eating a smaller fish.
We drove awhile, waiting
to be let out to see the sun
still warming the wide flat
smoothness of rocks.

When we finally dove into the water,
it was cold as metal on our skin.
But he was like water caressing
my waist, and drawing my sister’s
hair into a point down her back.
So we kept on diving, deeper and
deeper, into dark places where
the living don’t stay.

When he called to us with
a rope long enough to tie
our ankles and wrists, how
could we know the bones
of fish were near those rocks?
How could we know how
cold they could get?

by Jin Cordaro

Sister, locked in that room all summer with you
with a carpet as dark as your anger,
I did as I was told.  I studied the things
our father declared that I should know,
and you should teach.

And when it came time
for me to show what I had learned, the word
“no” became a drumbeat in that desert, speeding
up as your impatience bloomed.  You picked
at your fingernails.  I sat in a chair that was too big
for me.  There was failure stretching for miles around.

Through the open window, I listened to the high whir
of cicadas who did as they pleased in the hot summer air.
I saw you turn your head slightly. You heard them too.

by Jin Cordaro

It struck us overnight, like a cold sweat and an ache deep
in our bones.  Our bellies rumbled; we began to eat it
every day, sometimes twice.
We ate it in the car while it rained and our thighs
stuck to the seat.  Sometimes, we let it
melt and drank it while it eased into
our bellies like babies’ milk.
We fed it to the dog.  When we dreamed our fingers
twitched.  We ate it in our bed.
It cooled us like a washcloth during fever.
We languished in delirious visions
of our childhood.

by Jin Cordaro

Once, with no warning, she pushed
the bucket over with her foot to hear
us shriek; I ran from the pincers
clattering across the cold
square porcelain of that house.

But later, when they were
piled back on top of one another,
struggling for one small space to
live in, and my mother
still laughing, I saw small bubbles
slowly float up, and their small mouths
open and close, open and close.

I knew what they were asking


Jin Cordaro received a BA in Theater and Drama from the University
of Michigan and is currently pursuing an MFA in poetry at Fairleigh
Dickinson University.  The appearance of her work in the
Apple Valley
marks her debut publication.  Born just outside of Detroit, she
now resides with her husband in central New Jersey.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 4, Number 2
(Fall 2009)

Copyright © 2009
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.

Ice Cream
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