Sleepover Montage

When we played puppies, the game was mating
                                    and we took turns being the boy. Sometimes
one of us stayed human: musher and sled dog.
                                    You rode the tricycle and I pulled, a collar
around my neck. Once, down on all fours,
                                    something sharp on the carpet pricked
my palm, but it was too late to grab a Band-Aid
                                    and risk waking your parents. It was in your
new hot tub—the jet pressure—the first time
                                    I felt pleasure. I had no name for it.
I just stayed in place. The steam kept rising,
                                    chemicals that tickled my throat. Then
came the year we both bled early, before
                                    the other girls. Still, we spooned in your bed
and woke to morning light full of bonhomie.
                                    It streamed through the crystal in your window,
cast a small rainbow at the foot of the quilt.
                                    Do you remember the first night you lodged
a pillow between us? Firmly, like a final decision.

Night Group

Around the fire, a woman tells a story
that takes place deep in the woods
where she played as a child:

           For days, a mountain lion stalked her
           but she didn’t know until the moonless
           night he slinked into her tent,

                                                         her sleeping bag.

           The sound of a zipper slowly undone.

           He promised he wouldn’t bite
           if she didn’t scream—

           She tells how his musky rough fur
           rubbed her low hairless skin.
           How he returned the next night
                                                                        the next
                                                                                                    and the next.

           How his whiskers scratched her neck
           and even now
           she scrapes her throat raw in her sleep.

           She’d been told once you see a mountain lion,
           you’re already dead—

           so she knew what he snarled
           in her ear must be true:
                                               no one will believe you.

At first there are no words.
Damp kindling hisses
then voices flare up
like coals left smoldering,

sudden fire, light
and faces all around
who believe. Women
all around, too many who can say:
                                                               I know this story, too.

Keeping Our Dinner Reservation After The Doctor Refers My Sister To An Oncologist

From the bedroom comes the familiar clatter
of a cosmetics routine: my sister digging

through the small worlds of bright colors
to powder her face, rouge her cheeks. The wet

pumping of a mascara wand in its vial-like tube.
I wait on the couch and watch her vodka soda

sweat on the island where it’s been
abandoned, a foggy lip-mark on the rim

as if a ghost drank from her glass. Silence
follows the pop of a lipstick uncapped. I know

well the red ropes her lips will become.
When she floats through the doorway,

her perfume floods the air like a rosewater
rainstorm. She zips her purse closed, stays

standing, assumes now that she’s ready to go,
so am I. As always, she is dressed to kill.

MARY ARDERY is from Bloomington, IN. Her work appears in RHINO, Boudin, Two Peach, and elsewhere. Currently, she is pursuing an MFA at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, where she won the 2019 Academy of American Poets University Prize. Visit her at