Dear Barbara Browning,
When I read your sestina about Coca-Cola
it took me back to those arguments about nonviolence
with the anarchists who populate my college photos,
four specimens of which, male,
I cohabitated with on Selby Ave in a scene
of squalor as their collectivity did not extend to
chores. Lonely, I knit a cocoon in which to
disappear. At night they liberated Coca-Cola
vending machines from the electrical grid, scenes
I’ll never call violence,
even scorned, even female
in my desire for a photo
of the exact moment the photons
began to stop streaming into
those chilled cradles of capital. If I had one, I would mail
it to you as a gift, dying flicker of white Coca-Cola
script serene, unlike the violent
death of Adolfo de Jesús Munera López, seen
gunned down on his mother’s doorstep in Barranquilla,
price of his murder still unseen.
You can find his photo
online, red SINALTRAINAL baseball cap, fist raised
not in violence
but in some kind of shared economy of love.
I suppose I own one or two
shares of Killer Coke
in my retirement index funds. The French maille
as in mesh, as in caught, all of us in the thick
of each other. But maille
can also mean opening, as in slip through, half-seen.
Sometimes I’ll tell a pregnant client how a Coca-Cola
can be great in labor, sixty-five grams of fructose and glucose
mainlined swift as photons
straight to the liver. The body often too
beset to accept nourishment, urges violent
and implacable to hurl back all that is offered.
of the uterus can feel so personal, as though one part
of me is blackmailing
another—but into what? I wish whoever sends
these monthly threats to
me would tell me what they want—some kind of obscene
confession? I’ve already documented all my crimes
against myself, each shame an ugly photo
in my luggage. And can I really promise you
I’ll never drink another Coca-Cola?
Imagine someone kind holding out a cold Coca-Cola—
bottle, not can. A violent heat.
Telephoto in: my chapped lips on the rim.
No ethics are chainmail
against the scenes we are born into
and in which I mostly choose to stay, exit left.
Note: This poem is an homage or gift to Barbara Browning, whose main character wrote a sestina titled “Coca-Cola and Violence” in her novel The Correspondence Artist. I’m using her same end words, and in her order. Although the rest of the language is my own, some of the same themes are present (the Killer Coke campaign).
Renée Lepreau is currently an M.F.A. candidate in poetry at UW-Madison. Previously she worked as a midwife and lactation consultant. Her poems have appeared in Seneca Review, The Worcester Review, Dunes Review, Santa Ana River Review, and others.