a poetry e-zine










Zach de Stefan

In my family, the women know all too well
how it feels to lay next to men who do not
love them, something like chewing barbed
wire. My mother hates to talk about the girl
who, at fifteen, felt familiar hands crawl up
her thigh (repeat x two days a week
for fourteen months), hands commanding her
to chew & spit & cough up razor blades
she’s still pulling out from between her teeth.
She doesn’t like to think about driving home
after the first time, how she walked in the door
and kissed her father on the cheek, locked herself
in the bathroom and cut her hair with a knife.
After that, she stopped coming home for dinner,
but her mother would still put out three plates,
though two of them always went untouched.
At fifteen, my mother learned from her mother
that the secret to baking the perfect loaf of bread
is in the kneading, the pounding, the clawing,
the rape, that some stains can weather
generations, the fruit He split down the middle
and left on the counter
to rot.



Her fingers
pierce the flesh
so effortlessly,
it is easy to forget
that you are watching
on the formica countertop.

Nothing is wasted,
nothing save the fibrous muscle:
the blood you sip
as an accompaniment
to your breakfast of eggs and toast,
the body you find wrapped
in tin foil, tucked inside your lunch bag,
and the skin she grates up and stashes
away for a chiffon pie that will be
offered up at the church potluck
supper next week.


As a child,
the only fruits
she would eat
were ones with pits
because she liked
how it felt to hold hearts
that could not be broken
between her teeth.


A girl of eight runs barefoot
through a peach orchard,
hair mussed, her hands and feet
caked with dirt,

while up ahead, Grandma brings
her hatchet down upon the rattler
that took a bite out of the neighbor’s
tabby cat,

and she, witness to both murder
and execution, understands
that hunger is something
much more than wheat fields
lush like sunburned boys

and penny candy from
the Greek with bubblegum
lips at the corner store;

something entirely different
from the embarrassment she felt
choking on her first
and last cigarette,

something like what she saw
in the pomegranate eyes
of a dead snake
hanging over Grandma’s
shoulder -

Hunger, like snake skins
left out on the porch
to dry in the late afternoon


You wonder why she tends
to forgo a knife in favor
of her bare hands, but then
you remember that strength
is sometimes as simple
as sneaking a pregnant
peach from the bushel
when Grandma isn’t looking
and planting its pit
deep down
in your pocket.

(In Susquehanna University's "The Apprentice Writer", August 2014)


Take a right at Grand Ave., then a left at Blue Hill-

The tree-lined path will lead you as far as where the sidewalk, DPW-abandoned, ends;
the rest of the journey is to be tread across crumbling macadam, it seems, but if you keep to the shoulder, you’ll avoid certain death under the wheels
of the rush-hour parade whizzing past you into the smoldering sunset.

If summer’s supernova skies burn bright above you, surely the tinkling of glasses
and the burning echoes of lit cigarettes will guide you to a festival of fried faces playing their parts out on a dead, yellowed lawn,

or just listen for wars raging somewhere beyond mahogany paneled doors, domestic disputes kept under lock-and-key behind those cherry-kissed lips parted in a broken smile

(they’ll look at you with their syrupy grins and tell you that he’ll have one, two, maybe three sips, that’s all, they’ll swear, all the while red wining and laughing and crying and laughing),

and the golden crucifixes wrapped around their necks like snakes wait for a tug at the bait of porcelain hands clawing for God.

Perhaps you will hear some Sinatra standards resonating from my grandmother’s bedroom, and you’ll wonder why there were so many things in that house that had always been off-limits, why I have always wanted to dive and die from that rooftop like leaves coiled too tight around fingers never able to let go.

Daylight savings never saved any time for me, I have died a thousand times all the same, but the clock mounted on the kitchen wall has not worked in years, so how do we know when to turn back––?

The little boy up the street, his blood is bad, there are whispers that he will not live to see his tenth birthday, but as long as we can bemoan the frosted death of our deer-ravaged garden, a dollar in the plastic donations jar downtown at the pizza shop will suffice.

The only truth here, you see, is that the cicadas will keep singing until they die
on their own accord, or until sticky-fingered boys, their heads adorned with paper crowns, pluck them up in their greedy little hands and squeeze.

(Recipient of a Silver Medal at the 2014 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards; can be found within the online galleries of artandwriting.org.)

Zach de Stefan is a high school senior from New Jersey who will be attending Cornell University in the fall. His poetry has twice been recognized on the national level by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and in 2013 he was a semi-finalist for admittance into the National Student Poets Program. His work has appeared in, or is upcoming in, "Leaves of Ink", Penn State Erie's literary journal, "Lake Effect" magazine, and Susquehanna University's "The Apprentice Writer".

Copyright 2014  Chantarelle's Notebook