Madeline Reding

Who Made the World


Tuck a string of hair behind a child’s ear.
Begin: we kids refused to let them chop
the tree behind the church. Say, holy is
the flower in my father’s palm, though cut
from earth and lifted up. I think of voices
floating through the floor, the books I know
by touch. The water’s liquid stillness,
showing the sky its face. It recognizes
instantly. A squirrel holds the last
tomato summer made; he winds his way
around the tree. A flash of red with every glimpse,
a fruit forbidden. Always sorry, all
of us, but holy are the hands that shake,
and holy is the nurse who asks, Am I
hurting you in any way? I have
a sheet of paper, smudged. I wrote, erased,
because.

 

Song of the Cricket

My lab partners are squeamish, and so, the task
is up to me: pull cardboard tubes from the frenzy

in the terrarium, shake out springing insects
to anesthetize in an icebox. They spill
onto the floor, evade fingers and palms

that set out to catch them. The third time,
now, I’m on my knees below the black-topped
table, trying with soft hands to catch

and not crush a cricket, trying not to smack
my head as I reach blindly around
the piping at the wall. I remove heads and limbs

with pairs of surgical scissors, stain
their malpighian tubules with a solution,
peer through the buggy eyes of a microscope.

The breath of dead crickets rises,
pungent, from the beaker full of bodies by the sink.
After class, I leave the heat of the lab, pull in cold air

as I walk, on my way to babysit a three-ear-old.
She tells me, here’s what sound the cricket makes,
and screams.

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Madeline Reding lives and works in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She has work published or forthcoming in Midway Journal, Salt Hill Journal, and Paper Darts, and one of her poems has been featured as a broadside in Twin Cities trains and buses, as part of the Saint Paul Almanac’s Impressions project. .

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