Iris Jamahl Dunkle
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Tea
 

Mrs. Collins keeps her cups sorted by
state in the dark wood cupboard. Today, she’s
debuted another unlikely pair.
“They’re souvenirs from my daughter.”

I hold Nebraska nervously between my thumb
and forefinger as my eyes adjust to
the house’s shadows.

From outside, the voices of her two sons
gather and rise--a pair of overgrown
crickets stalking the burnt-backyard.

I know, they’re setting traps for me—
homemade—holes dug deep and narrow
enough to catch a leg to the thigh—
then camouflaged from the eye
with sticks and dirt and grass.

She pours my cup dangerously full—talks
knitting and how to stuff miniature pillows
for a doll’s house—says I should steal
sawdust from my father for the stuffing.

I take a shaky sip, dull the orange map of my saucer.
Mrs. Collins looks on and over my shoulder out
at the lazy curtains barely lifting to the afternoon breeze;
I think I see the corners of her mouth rising

before the thunder on the back steps—the boys voices
swarming in the kitchen—her husband’s slow
and heavy entrance through the front door.  

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Iris Jamahl Dunkle received her M.F.A. from New York University. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Case Western Reserve University. Her work has appeared in Cleveland in Prose and Poetry, Fence, Squaw Valley Review, and Washington Square. She's been teaching creative writing in both University and community environments for the past eight years.  

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