3 Poems by Eve Ewing



in flight from a war for my own holy self 
clinging to a steamship. 
the old farm house one day fell in cinders 
but today, first, burned into my corneas. 
it’s still visible when I close my eyes: 
a tangerine aura with no center. 
I told them I would not fight. 
they mailed me from Mississippi 
in a metal ice chest 
I taste salt at the sight of honeysuckle, 
recalling some kind of way 
the last bacon grease to touch 
the back of my hand. 
I danced, once 
from Alabama westward 
the longest cakewalk 
I rode in on a bumblebee. 
I fell out of the dirt. 
I disguised myself as a painter in a time of artless men. 
I remember every note you ever wrote to me. 
when you pull all day from the coldest water you can find 
and do not mind carrying your bicycle up the stairs, 
July twilight comes so late 
you might forget to end the day at all. 



one day the pain is so intolerable 
we do nothing but stare shamefacedly 
at each other, and the wall, 
and at the pile of dirty towels on the floor. 
I refuse breakfast on your behalf, 
and when I am well enough 
palm some dirhams and put on a long skirt 
and walk alone through the dusty streets 
to the pharmacy, marked from afar 
by the green T which, upon sight, filled my head 
with the nasal wail of a French ambulance. 
the same cross. new dust and new smells. 
here the kelly neon is emblazoned onto white plaster, 
not the stone and brick of Rue de Rivoli. 
no, I cannot name this street. my tongue pushes 
foolishly against the brushstrokes on every wall. 
I can say la 
barakallahu fik 
assalamu alaikum
and nothing more. 
but my heart and this city 
we share a colonial ache 
and I can say it all in the way I began with 
            yes, very sick, yes 
            fever, yes, and dehydrated 
and I can buy ginger ale and bland and salted things 
and I discover that I brought too much money. 
no one wants to make change for me 
so I accrue debts all over town. 
            demain, demain, vous payez demain 
I thank them so politely and wonder if you worry for me 
making my way through the narrow passage 
where the men smoke hashish and tell me to smile. 



            after Tom Waits

Never eat a ripe peach when you are dying. 
Never sweep the floor when cicadas are singing. 
Never widen your eyes at a book if the pages have yellowed. 
Never wander when you have pain in your fingertips. 
Never swallow a bottle of India ink. 
Never travel after a violet sunset if the wind blows west. 
Never drink from a cracked vessel. 
Never look askance at a spider. 
Never listen to a man on the night’s last train. 
Never believe a promise written in pencil. 


Eve L. Ewing is a Chicagoan, a writer, a teacher, an artist, and a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She lives in Boston, where she coordinates youth arts programs, including the Louder Than A Bomb poetry slam. More of her work lives at eveewing.com.