Lead: Three Poems by Jessica Martin


He said forever
While the chuppah contained their laughter

They fed each other little pieces of dark chocolate
A baby boy was born

After the separation, they wore the same lead-painted regret

Before the Divorce

Before the divorce
He would drape his body over mine
Like a honey-sick bee—

Oh baby, he blubbered
His eyes wet with what I hoped was remorse—
Through his invincible smile
I conceded another hug
And bent my rigid body backward
I coughed to escape—
His arms like a dozen oxen working hard to stir the soil

But my dirty heart wouldn’t listen and tiredly waited at the step of the attorney’s gate

Our golden apparitions decay and leave the poisonous lead behind


Lead tastes like sugar
That’s why he continues to put his hands in his mouth
Yeah but who eats paint chips you laugh

Two granules of this sugar will poison the baby

It wasn’t paint chips
You laugh again so what then
The bathtub

The baby in his baby bathtub dropped his baby toys into the bigger tub and put them in his

Through the roof they said
Do you play with guns at home they ask
Do you make stained glass windows

Off the charts they said when they finally discovered the bathtub
It was I who had discovered it was the bathtub

Do you remember

You nod
I was awake for weeks researching
And I found it on a dubious website but lo

The only place we hadn’t checked

The XRF gun registered tiny amounts in the soldering under the sink, the brass doors, the vinyl
floors, the windowsills, the dust on the floor, the Chinese toys. The water sample came back. The soil sample came back

The city took charge and came with white uniforms

They wore masks

No part of their body could be seen. They carried jackhammers
A plastic tunnel was created through the house and onto the lawn

The neighbors came outside
The one who gave me the recipe for peach cobbler

Oh yes you say and the dogs Harley and Moose

Wondering what

And by this time we were long gone

Living in the van, on Suzi and Gregg’s floor, at the extended day motel where I tried to make
banana fritters because I was so excited to have a stove top, and which we had to throw away

Buying diapers and driving across town

You were still there

We had different perspectives you say

You thought you could abate the lead yourself
But eventually you realized you couldn’t

Jessica Era Martin earned her MFA in poetry from Queens University in Charlotte and her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. She is a mother, a chess teacher, and a ping pong enthusiast.