Episode 38: Of Flossing and Pottery Barn

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Sharee DeVose

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman


Engineering Producer:

Ryan McDonald


Our latest episode of Slush Pile features four poems by Marcia LeBeau titled “Instead of Cornering Jericho Brown by the Wine and Cheese, After His Talk on Racism, I Whisper to Him in My Head,” “Ode to Flossing,” “Letter to Myself at Eighty,” and “After You Tell Me You and Your Wife Have ‘an Agreement.’”

Marcia LeBeau

Almost 20 years ago, Marcia LeBeau started writing poetry by mistake. After receiving an MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts (when it was called Vermont College) where she learned a lot and made some of the best friends of her life, she was writing radio ads for Courvoisier Cognac that her creative director called “spoken word.” Who knew?  She later wrote “ad poems” for Kahlua, and they chose her to be the voice over. LeBeau and her husband recently co-founded a studio/art gallery in Orange, New Jersey, called The Rectangle. She has Twitter and Instagram accounts that she never uses (people tell her this has to change), but you can find out more about her on Facebook and her website. LeBeau currently lives in South Orange, New Jersey, with her husband and 5- and 7-year-old sons, where she tries to find time to write poetry.

In discussing LeBeau’s four poems, we find each one unique in style, tone and topic. Their content ranges from a conversation on race and racism to self-affirmation in old age, from an extreme love for flossing to the contemplation of an extramarital affair. The poems are at times serious and bold, funny and wild, gorgeous, elegant, and meaningful. And one thing they all have in common – beautifully crafted imagery and language make them an absolute delight to read and review! Find out which poems had us torn in our decisions and which got unanimous yes’s!

We close out the episode with encouragement from Tim to support our favorite authors and literary publications, especially those threatened by budget cuts to the National Education Association (NEA). It’s important to do what we can to keep authors, publications, and local libraries afloat. Once or twice a year, go buy that new book you’ve been checking out, or even gift them to friends!

Let us know what you think about this episode on Facebook and Twitter with #AgainAgain!


Instead of Cornering Jericho Brown by the Wine and Cheese, After His Talk on Racism, I Whisper to Him in My Head

I tell him:

When my teenage godson cries, there is no sound,
just tears sliding down his black cheeks from an invisible
faucet while he stares at me, unblinking.

Sometimes when his face is wet and he wipes it with the neck
of his bright white t-shirt, I think of how my sons’ t-shirts
have never been that white.

At school drop-off, I can’t tell if the black caretaker of a black kid
is a nanny or a mom. I always know whether the white caretaker
of a white kid is a nanny or a mom.

When my godson’s mother died, we found it buried in a police
blotter: “Black female between ages 20-30, found by joggers
at Attorney and Houston in East River.”

After years of my brother dating black women, I want him to date
someone white. I feel like he is rejecting me, my mom, himself.

The little black girl asks what color my eyes are.
“Blue,” I tell her. When she laughs and screams, “Weird!”
her mother slaps her across the face.

Jericho looks at me, leans in and whispers:

Slavery was a bad idea.


Ode to Flossing

If there were an award for flossing, I would work toward it. Pull
the string from its dainty plastic box every chance I got just to hear
its zoop, zoop, snap beneath the silver tooth that razors it useful. I’d work
it through my oral crevices until I tasted salt and my spit ran red,
reminiscing about how they sewed my best friend’s wedding dress
with white floss when her breasts became engorged enough on the big day
to bust the strap. I’d wonder why it always lands on the edge
of our silver trash can, dangling like a suicide mission. The owner
too tired to notice, the next observer too disgusted.

Oh, thin nylon filament of my evening!

        Fifty meters of rolled-up joy!

Don’t ever try to tempt me with a floss wand. I’d prefer the magic
of cutting off my finger’s circulation with twisted plastic ribbon,
thank you. In fact, I’d make floss brownies and eat them until the cops
showed up and asked me to come-with-them and why-don’t-nice-girls-

That’s what I’d do for the flossing award, so just back off,
Dr. Smiley. I don’t want your six-month postcard, your fake
birthday wishes and your sad bag of toothpaste, toothbrush and dare
I say it, floss. If you don’t believe, after all our years together,
that I do my best for my incisors, canines, bicuspids, and molars,
let me spit in your bowl no more.


Letter to Myself at Eighty

I hope you know you’re still lovely, with a tongue
that can knot a maraschino cherry stem, then turn
the world straight. Your wrinkled branches
remain for you to dance in the wind. Remember,
on your most ragdoll-of-days, you are holy.

But why am I telling you this? Surely you know
more now than I do. And you would tell me
with your gold fusion sarcasm—take it easy, girl.
Slow down. Enjoy the ride, because it’s all
a midafternoon spin with the top down, the sun
spraying you with dynamite.

Remember that day in summer, when your oldest boy
was less than one. The way you lay in the crabgrass,
legs and arms skyward with him resting on your hands
and feet, flying while you hated what your life
had become. But you laughed and laughed
with that creature, both finding your way
in the kingdom. That is how it works. Sucking life
into your bones. What the hummingbirds always knew.


After You Tell Me You and Your Wife Have ‘an Agreement’

I want to talk about everything except your agreement, here in my car
where you’re taking up too much space. I want to look at your knees knocking
my glove box as the branches of the Norwegian Maple vein the moon
roof and think about what could have been if you had just kept your lips
shut. I’ll make an agreement with you—

Open the door, walk into your house and go lay on your Pottery Barn bed
beside your wife. Commune with her hips and lips and toes and moan
into the darkness. Be the kind of man who doesn’t have an agreement,
 so that I wish you did.

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