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"Still Life with Frying Pan, Fight, and Flower Pot" & "Mr. S" by Frances Klein

Still Life with Frying Pan, Fight, and Flower Pot

How beautiful it is

to break an egg

into the waiting pan

to repot a plant

grown too wild for its housing

to see crumbs

of soil spilled onto the

just-cleaned floor

How beautiful it is

to see someone walk away

in anger and swallow

the words that would

call them back

How beautiful the bright lights

that make of the window

an opaque slate

In the pan

the egg yolk whitens

like a cataract clouding an eye

Outside the window

darkness draws close

like it wants something

On the floor

potting soil crunches

beneath my socked feet

From the next room

my partner fumes

like a kettle about to boil

but in the kitchen

I am unappeasing

my mouth filled with egg

Mr. S

after Lydia Davis

He wants to be a good manager. So in summer, for example, when he knows his women will swaddle themselves in slacks and sweaters, he slides the thermostat to 60, refusing to relent in his quest for goodness until he sees them shiver with gratitude, arms tucked in thick sleeves, hands like nervous centipedes emerging reluctantly to skate across the keyboard.

He wants to be a good manager, especially to L., with whom he cannot make eye contact for more than a moment before he is completely enflamed. He likes her, likes the way her soft body fills sensible office-wear. She sits in view of his window, facing away, and he documents unyieldingly the time she has stolen from him as he stares at the roll of fat peeking out of each cap-sleeve. He wants nothing more than to lay his head in the rising dough softness of her armpit, smell the yeast of her body, warm on the embers of her glands.

But good managers do not bake bread with inferiors and he wants, above all, to be good. So he is harsher with her than with the other employees; he asks more, gives less, speaks in short, clipped sentences that hide completely, he thinks, how badly he wants to knead her doughy stomach between his fingers. When he dares to look in her eyes he finds the spark of mirrored longing, and he loves her more for the noble restraint she shows, as he shows it.

But then she gossips with the other women, there is talk of a first date, and he is scorched by the sudden realization that other men are not so good. Ignited by this fear he stands over her desk until she says, ‘sir?’ and the two of them live and die in that syllable, because in the moment after he tells her that he loves the smell of yeast, there is no flame of recognition. She is just puzzled, and he can’t hear her response over the roar of burning, loud as bonfire, loud as a pyre.

Frances Klein is a poet and teacher writing at the intersection of disability and gender. She is the author of the chapbooks The Best Secret (Bottlecap Press, 2022) and New and Permanent (Blanket Sea 2022). Klein serves as assistant editor of Southern Humanities Review. Readers can find her work at


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