Nicole Santalucia


My brain is leftover cake in the freezer;
it’s trapped in a ziploc bag
and if the freezer ever stops freezing
my cake brain will melt.
The chocolate frosting looks like blood
and this bag of brains begins to rot.
My brain is cold out here in Pennsylvania
where black and white gunshots
echo above the train tracks,
where trains carry boxes full of hearts
pass the prison… where I sit now
with Rashanya and Elizabeth and Chelsea;
we sit in a cold cinderblock room
wearing red shirts and pants.
We heat up Pennsylvania from behind bars.


but not the one baking in the sun at the bus stop
or the worm that my brother made me eat when I was 7.
This worm has never been cut in half;
it doesn’t come out when it rains.
The worms in New York and the ones in Pennsylvania
are related to god and sometimes I smell them in a drinking glass
fresh out of the dishwasher. I swear that the difference between
the worm that is god and the worms that live in our guts
has made me regurgitate my desire to drink, swallow it again, then recite
Emily Dickinson, but in my recitation I get the words wrong.
Instead of a narrow fellow in the grass I imagine something narrow
and sly in my pants.


The cows and apple trees and tractor trailers
thump between the prison yard and the university.
Sometimes I chase a heard of cows out of my classroom
and the earth thumps. The word of the lord thumps.
The word thump breaks my ribs. Brown battery operated
cows thump through traffic. Factories thump and farmers
thump. The warehouses are full of thumps. The sky thumps
to the ground when I get home from work and kiss my wife.
When two women fall asleep in the same bed
the stars thumpthumpthumpthumpthump
like bullets that have been hovering
over our heads since the beginning of time.


Nicole Santalucia is the author of Because I Did Not Die (Bordighera Press). She is a recipient of the Ruby Irene Poetry Chapbook Prize from Arcadia Magazine for Driving Yourself to Jail in July and the Edna St. Vincent Millay Poetry Prize from The Tishman Review. She received her M.F.A. from The New School University and her Ph.D. in English from Binghamton University. Santalucia teaches poetry at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania and brings poetry workshops into the Cumberland County Prison.