The Curse

Lisa Lewis

Whenever I look at everything like new,

I want to know why the ficus tree died.  

Probably my fault: I didn’t create this world, 

but it could feel me trying to pick apples

without watering. You know what I mean.


Who lived here, who had the big ideas,

who made the mistakes, who moved away.

I thought I’d never hear again about the troubles

I was tired of. The Nazi my friend was dating.

The car ride when I argued with him. What year


was it? 1980. Summer squash smeared

gold on the center line like infection.   

For my sore sake, don’t leak it how old

I’ve gotten. Can’t cover it up but the young woman

with the weariness disease wants to know.  


She wants a man in place of me.

That’s how to say it, out loud.

But this was always a woman’s house

in its doors. In my next life I’m returning

with different clothes and different plans.


The heterosexual part I remember like a tumor

I was cured of, but when I take a day off

this property the couples walk arm in arm.

Whenever you hear me talking like this,

imagine the three thin chimneys of a house


brought to its knees in dirty water.

They haven’t blown smoke in a long time,

but when they did the doors were propped open

and the dancing so loud nobody noticed 

the coals charring grief spots in the floor.  


I’m going to claim they burned so long 

nothing would stop them until I dragged

the flood behind me like a skirt with a train.

It was like my mother yelling at me

to look like a lady for once, 


not that she ever did, except on the job, 

where she knew what she had to do.

I’m paying for her now.  I always will. 

She had her habits.  She had her place.


Ask me sometime what happened


to her ashes when the slurry

rushed in under the walls

and I wasn’t thinking about her,

she hadn’t spoken to me in years,

and I was used to thinking


that at this point she couldn’t change. 


Headshot | Lisa Lewis


LISA LEWIS has published eight collections of poetry, most recently Taxonomy of the Missing (The WordWorks, 2018) and a chapbook, The Borrowing Days (Emrys, 2021). Recent work appears or is forthcoming in New Letters, Puerto del Sol, Cream City Review, National Poetry Review, Diode, Agni Online, and elsewhere. She directs the creative writing program at Oklahoma State University and serves as editor-in-chief of the Cimarron Review