Jessica Barksdale
Sugar Bowl

Shark cloud,
spine cloud,
waves of vertebrae
and phalanges
and carpals
and metacarpals
float by, fractured
by light and sky,
bones like the one
in my wrist, the one
I broke at eight, slipping

down the slickery
grass behind the house.
I reached out,
tried to grab, catch, hold
myself before I fell
to earth.

Saturday morning,
coffee and sugar and milk on the table,
in my mother's wedding
porcelain. My father
sat reading his
leisurely paper
when I walked in,
cradling my right arm

like a dead cat.
My mother at the sink,
her back to us, her whisper,
Please take her
to the hospital, please.
My father stood up
and flipped over the kitchen table
with one hand.
The x-ray’s mouth hummed
as it ate my arm,
and the hot wet plaster of the cast
was white and didn't smell
like dead skin, not yet.
Later, my father said,
They looked at me as if I were beating her,
and I ate soup with my
left hand and thought of
cracked plates, a milk glass
sheared in half, the lonely
top hat of a shattered
sugar bowl, the clouds
floating over me as I lay
broken on the hill.

Jessica Barksdale’s fourteenth novel, The Burning Hour, was published by Urban Farmhouse Press in April, 2016. A Pushcart Prize and Best-of-the-Net nominee, her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in Waccamaw, Salt Hill Journal, Little Patuxent Review, Carve Magazine, Palaver, and So to Speak. Several of her short stories are available on, including the award-winning “Leaving Mr. Wong.” She is a Professor of English at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California, and teaches novel writing online for UCLA Extension. She holds an MA in English Literature from San Francisco State University and an MFA from the Rainier Writers Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.