Swallowing Reflex

Her father has stopped eating.

Her mother calls:

they must decide

about a feeding tube.

That night, she finds

herself in the grocery store,

filling her cart with cheese,

chips, chocolate

as if she could eat

for him,

as if she could stuff

the hole

that is opening

in their lives,


to swallow them.

Thou Shalt Not Look at a Naked Soul

You sold all your things

before your trip

around the world

hauled them down the stairs

spread them out in the yard,

pieces of your life piled high:

books and records

clothes and shoes

a coat rack shaped like a cactus

the tie dye bedspread

the pewter bowl from your windowsill

the necklace with the garnet pendant

your baby pictures

your paintings

your sketch books.

A friend said she wished

she could buy them all and keep

them for you until your return.

I opened one of them,

started to look through the pages

but it felt like a sin.

I could not have

them in my house.

They would whisper

in their box, haunt me—

nobody should own

a piece of another’s soul.

Agnes Vojta grew up in Germany and now lives in Rolla, Missouri where she teaches physics at Missouri S&T and hikes the Ozarks. She is the author of Porous Land (Spartan Press, 2019) and The Eden of Perhaps (Spartan Press, 2020), and her poems have appeared in a variety of magazines.