Flavor Town USA: Three Poems by Rachel Becker

Flavor Town USA:
Rachel Becker

morning sickness

the world has
an atmospheric stench
that turns your
stomach cyclonic
for the full
nine months.

other mothers-to-be
offer advice,
but there’s no way
to white chicken meat
or preggo pop
yourself out of bed,
or to short circuit
your brain’s
maladaptive mishmash
of wires. a glitch
that renders toxic

aluminum, toilet bowl,
skin cream, stove top
the stench of water.

your baby at 12 weeks
is a photo of a plum
that makes you retch.

plums are such posers,
burnished skin but all
stabby with roughage.

the IV nurse stabs
your dehydrated
vein, says                               

let’s put in a picc line
you can do this yourself
it’s not so bad.

but it’s so bad,
bruised wrists bad.

eventually, you keep
food down, but only
orange processed
food, so you imagine
your baby-shaped baby,
its heart like a
tiny fist raised
in protest, pumping
cheeto dust and sunny d.,
spinning platelets
of spaghetti-os
which stick to vessels
scattershot. oh,
hand on your womb,

you wonder how
any good, any
plummy bundle,
can come from

Alphabet of Wrongdoings

My mother palms
just right cherry tomatoes,
tops tousled green
from a community plot
someone else has tended.
She pops one in her mouth
whole. She’s stolen before,

plucking rose petals from
the neighbor’s bushes,
bunching them into
tiny pale balloons,
before popping them
on the thin skin of my wrist,
—The louder the better—
she says, but it stings.

I rail against her thefts.
Sneaking into theaters,
under plush velvet ropes,
my face bloomsy, pinkening
in pre-emptive shame.
I never taste
her stolen tomatoes,
but the scent of tomato tar
leaves me wanting.

Now, my husband grows
them from seedlings.
I long for their greening,
ache for August. I eat them
before my son can
harvest them. My mother
has made a thief of me,
mainlining lycopene.

Ours is a tangled mess
of sun gold and brandy wine
vines. I know I’m 
not the only animal craving,
but still, I take. I steal.

A letter from my father says

I love you but only lightly,
a month after my daughter’s birth. 
Diet love, love lite.  

There he goes, declaring himself,
a smidge less than kin.
He has a one-year-old
with his newest wife
and she is full 
of birdsome rage. 

Where to put that letter
and the others they send
peppered with needless
exclamation points,
like too much pepper, 
spoiling the stew?

I cannot home them. 

So I’ll cut an angry hole,
sluicing the sky of— 
not that the color matters.
I heave all her unhumble brags,
all their Christmas cards
decked with their kid’s accolades,
and make a kitchen sink soup
of paper and peril.

And there’s more to add:
ground up bone bits
from tinned salmon croquettes,
cake for a school project
(leaden—we forgot the rising agent),
a graduation missed,
shredded shutters from  
a childhood home,
gristle of family lore.

Alas, I make it too thick, 
and the stew sags, threatening
to soup rain, soup porridge,
bulging, billowing 
from cast iron clouds.

I have to paper over it,
find a sealant.
I have a child of my own, you see,
so heavy with milk 
that numb handed, 
I can barely lift her.

Imprisoned by
her insistent hunger, 
I cannot let the sky empty
into my arms.

Rachel Becker is a writer and teacher of high school English and Creative Writing in Newton, MA. Her poems have most recently appeared in Dinner Bell magazine and the online project What Rough Beast (Indolent Books); she is also a sometimes-correspondent for The Boston Globe. She lives in Boston. 

Image: northernester.com

Check out HFR’s book catalog, publicity list, submission manager, and buy merch from our Spring store. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.