Sophia Starmack


wakes before her husband. Grinds the coffee.

walks me down the aisle.

wears my mother’s breasts and sings like my dead sister on the phone.

dropped out of school. everyone was so mean.

is sharp as soccer cleats and twice as nasty.

dug up a rotted foundation in the woods.

wonders if it was molested as a child.

went to college. has two graduate degrees and still feels lonely.

goes to bed while it’s still light.

is trying a new medication.

sits in the therapist’s chair.

grades papers. still hasn’t gotten tenure.

swallows hard.

feels fine but has a hard time sleeping.

bled on the sheets in its father’s house while the boyfriend snuck out the window.

is named one, two, and three.

unfreezes pies at four am and waits to open. falls like snow.

is considering when to tell.

once met several other silences in an abandoned subway tunnel.

they all had long white hair.

drools on the pavement, tries to straighten out.

feels its tentacles frothing the dark.

claps its hands and flour rises like smoke.

folds and refolds the dough.


I wanted to write a poem that would remind me

that I am a goddess and not a cow

or at least a poem that would split the difference.

A poem that would wake me at five am to sing

              It’s so good to have a steady job!

But it didn’t happen. My feet hurt.

I stood all week watching children take tests.

Five cried, one threw up, and two peed

but the last one smiled and said

Don’t worry Miss Starmack, I’m only a little wet

I want to finish my work.

I called a woman to say, hello, your eight-year-old daughter

has gotten her period.

The mother cried so I didn’t.

What do you say to an eight-year-old who’s become

in between writing and math

a woman?

We sat in the empty science room next to the garter snake

the crayfish, the chinchilla in its tall wire cage.

I handed her a pair of extra-large panties, rose print

and an enormous pad.

I did not say, You are a woman, your life has begun.

I said, Do you know what it is? Did your mother

tell you about it?


I said, Look at the chinchilla hiding under its bowl.

Its house is big as a teacher but only its ears stick out.


Somewhere after the desert, Ruth’s eyes fill with water.
In the high air, dust, her lover’s face: rarefied, precious.

At home her brother is young and dreams of the fight.
In his lungs a dry crackle speaks endlessly of fire.

The white sky and the ranger say today is a dangerous day;
trucks move down the mountain with jars of water, precious.

In Ruth’s hands, a white peach tells two things:
hot static fur, and the promise of water, precious, precious.

Three hundred miles from the ocean a man is building a boat.
It sails on its wooden scaffold, dry and peach-white.

Which is more dear to the dry boat man—his boat? his hands?
Or the promise of water, precious, so far inland?

Sophia Starmack received an M.A. in French and Francophone Literature from Bryn Mawr College, and an MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence. Sophia was a 2014-15 Poetry Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where she currently serves as Writing Fellowship Coordinator. Her poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Barrow Street, Best New Poets, The Threepenny Review, and other publications. Her poetry chapbook, The Wild Rabbit, was published in 2015.