President’s Day

by Joanna Fuhrman

Joanna Fuhrman

Before George, there was another
first president,

his flesh carved
from the body
of a cherry tree,
veins full of
pre-linguistic vowels, primordial auburn sludge.

They say it was he

who divided the states into genders:

the South, a buoyant mouse-
hearted femme fatale,
the North,

male as an oak or the word “oak”
in the crease of a dusty forestry textbook.

I am telling a lie.

The first president’s face couldn’t bear fruit.
Instead of lips, there was a branding iron.

When he kissed, he burned
his partner’s lips (my lips?), so they

looked like his lips.

Not too ugly, but when I sucked on them
they tasted like hate.

When the rivers voted for him,
the earth cratered in shame.

We made love in the mud,
but it wasn’t love, and his brain

seeped into my brain until I became
the President and he became the slave,

became the wife, the broken broom
and the cracking sky.

I felt the power of that,
but wanted more than power,

so I said,
“let’s start over,” but

the fires had already started
and there was water

in my iron shoes
and in the glass archive

I thought was his (or my)
brain and in my agate-

lightning-full eyes, so all
that was left of our romance

was the skin that created it,
was the sound of the paper skin,

creasing, and ripping, when the other
first president’s axe finally hit.

Last updated November 24, 2022