Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Rae Winkelstein






better you are his caregiver.
who never knew him when his brain was there.
better his wife won’t see this
and no one looking down.
all of you got lost
caregiver, you got lost.
come home and he does not.
it’s good where the home is.
home as the glow that dissipates
home as a sinking silt pulled downriver.
it’s good you auditioned.
so good that you got the part.
sweetheart, so so good.
i couldn’t be prouder of you.
better do your show
you know, you know what your audience craves.
caregiver with your thoracic support belt and blue straps
lock yourself in the bathroom to cry when they hug.
their gaudy faucets and marble sink did not protect them.
the six foot elephant tusks that flank the front door set
in sturdy gold bases did not protect them. when you are with
them you are inside him. feeling the spooky feeling that has
always been their marriage. you’ll do what she won’t with him,
watch law & order. he gallops into the kitchen, peels the delicate
ribbon from the parcel, and rams his fingers in the chocolate cake.
scavenger. it’s unclear if you love him or love to ache. (someone is out
there. acting so violent out there. living while ignoring
your love.) but the couple – she and he – hurt you evenly
with their need. you don’t know how not to soothe them,
how not to hold her head.
u better go on stage tonight, little animal living as a fear
that leaps from couple to couple. stowed like their shovel.
you can endure, you give your performance. you can
dedicate your performance to him.



Moth body: shucked
Husk: blown open
Abdomen: retracted in a coil.
Eggs: extruded onto stone
Stinking adhering.

You chose the soil cure.
This is your cure.
Like an insect you refused the insect cure.
No whining froth songs.
Porchlight: no one singing.
Refusal in abundance
Hampering the fresh vents.
Human is your refusal and
Swamps shift at your passing.

I saw you slow   and swallow    and look     and swallow
though, when you saw how the swamp had spread.



Your unlaced presence is a lung to be fed
A night pulled long into a filamentous screw
Your black-blooded warble blooding its threads.

When you have a beak you break differently,
Torquing victor to what you would have smashed
Myrtle-dweller sharp-eyeing the thorax—the jewel of the ant

That would have been deemed neutral and allowed to pass.
It isn’t as if everything looks like a nail, no
Some things suddenly appear too strong

New mothers, previously tender, scare you off
Their chicks you were only going to gauge the odor of.
And the brown snail, safely pungent in its newly mended shell

Shocks open your impulse
Your leering springing one
As cake would have done.

You have the element of surprise when
Earlier you had hands—or felt you did—their eerie slowness hypnotic in the light.


Photograph of Rae Winkelstein by Uğur Güney.

Rae Winkelstein is a writer and science teacher. She teaches future nurses and future nurse practitioners at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn. Other poetry can be found in Lana Turner, Caketrain, CutBank, Berkeley Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Gasher, and Interim. She is currently working a book in collaboration with artist and writer Leah Sohotra. More from this author →