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Teresa Leggard


I cut the tip of my finger clean 

off one night in the kitchen

chopping onions, turning turnips


into beets, thinking about my cousin 

scraping by. He doesn’t cry—just swears 

like an HBO comedian with each punch-


line more bitter than the last, one

on top of the other smashing down.

(It’s no wonder he drinks like a root.)


There’s no live-studio audience,

but the hits just keep on coming. We come

from a long line of comedian cooks


who ferment tragedy until the bite 

becomes a smile. It’s deep,

this wound on the end of my finger

that reminds me of a joke.

The Washing

Pruned knuckles plunge 

into dirty, swirling

murk. Tight grip

drags a soiled collar

across metal hills. Bent 

over backbone imitates 

the board, weathered

with sweat beads riding ridges

along an old country road.


What removes coffee? Tree sap?

Blood? What dissolves 

guilt or innocence? 

Work it into a lather, let the lye 

burn the delicate parts. 


Come clean, come clean.

Doing Lines

This poem wants

to lure you

to linger 

on its edge, 

risk a paper cut— 

that stinging-when-touched 

you keep finding your way 

back to—the scene of the rhyme. 

You lick the line, 

mouth the words,

conjure the song 

long after 

the lights come up

and you can’t find your phone.

Turn on this poem.

It is the ticket stub, 

the days-old VIP wristband 

you won’t cut off. This poem 

is the only picture

from a night when 

we took no pictures 

because you wanted to remember 

your version of the story. 

Sweet reader,

take the risk,

lick the line,

let it sing. 

This poem is the party.

Teresa M. Leggard (she/her) is a Brooklyn-born, Jersey-raised, Midwest transplant. She lives, with her husband Jay, in Kansas City, Missouri, where she teaches English composition at Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley and directs local theatre. Teresa sees all her work as an opportunity to help people say what they mean.

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