The Works of Theresa Senato Edwards

Theresa Senato Edwards's poetry is forthcoming in Press 1 and has appeared in decomP, Triplopia, AdmitTwo, Boxcar Poetry Review, Clean Sheets Magazine, Softblow, Chronogram, and elsewhere. She has an M.A. in English and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing (poetry). She tutors writing at Marist College and is founder and editor of Holly Rose Review,, an online poetry & tattoo literary journal.

All Poems © Theresa Senato Edwards

Flat & Hollow

"pain has, or can at least sometimes find, form."

-Maggie Nelson

Pain has form

molds itself

flat on the front

of the daily news

Silly Putty flat

             pink peeling off

             a black & white


of violence.

We hold it,    stretch     it,

the words

killed     last      night

manipulated by dirty

finger tips,

              those l's strangling us

into skewed horizontal.

Words woman found

naked in field adjoining mall

press into pink solidness

flattened by our thumb,

fleshy witness

to what's left out:

below her waist,

             a blackened space

             hollowed out

like eyes sucked dry

by cavernous night,

her edges traced with a blade

to find light.


Two weeks after radiation,

you slowly slide your index finger

across your gristly areola,

gently peel the dark brown skin from your left breast.

Tiny flakes fall to the floor,

an odor, like the smell of dirt in the cracks of a child's neck.

Your right breast: almost ivory, soft pink nipple,

accompanies the ghostly lingering of the left side.

And you're naked in the mirror,

hairs wet from the morning shower,

armpits damp from sweat already gathering

as you softly rub ointment on your tender scar,

feel the slight indent, gravity filling it in.

You hesitate before getting dressed,

eyes trace the brown scalene triangle

from your left breast, extending slightly

into the shade of health on your right side.

You feel a silence of process: that languid,

invisible sketching of the path

you've taken to heal your body.

It's something like that dream you remember

from childhood: the brook crossing that doesn't end,

you're caught somewhere mid stream,

deaf amid a strong current, cold water

soothing hot toes through sneakers.

Holly Rose

My eyes listen to the tattoo artist

a dance of curls beneath a winter hat

he wears inside his tattoo parlor.

The Joker tattoo on his inner right arm,

ear lobes half moons of studs.

All of a sudden, my ears

the snap of sterile vanilla gloves,

buzzing resonance of metal in air

as he tests his machine then quietly

applies the pattern for my third tattoo.

Cigarette smoke lightly shades

the air, maneuvers down my throat.

I'm not ready for the pain that

begins the outline on my stomach,

left of my belly button.

A sharp, blackened ripping of my body

made by covered hands that guide

the tool's cut, then wipe my blood into the past.

The stale room presses deep, sucking color from my face

as sound carves symbols of my parents.

I have nothing to hold onto,

his lean legs straddle the chair's

side; I imagine them against me

as I try to clutch leather before my husband's

thick, strong body takes its place in my mind.

Needles press just below my ribs,

form a new genus on skin:

holly vine entwines thorn-stem of rose.

Vine and stem fuse in remembrance:

holly for December (my father's birthday month),

rose for June (my mother's).

Their inked tribute lost momentarily

in my obsession: younger man, artist's

art on me.


I go back for color;

go back for him,

This time lidocaine two hours before

helps numb the needle's entry.

His winter hat with “FUCK YOU”

on the back. Clean, blue gloves

pour ink in tiny, sterile plastic.

I follow his blue eyes, his grey

chin hairs I stroke in my mind.

Came in three hours ago,

turned the heat on for you, he says.

I'm hot, flushed below my inked flower,

near my husband's touch

the night before.

I laugh, green-needle drone cutting,

shading, skin beneath skin

until the lidocaine wears off.

He asks if it hurts.

Excruciating, I think.

This is it for me. I say.

Last time in this place.

He rattles my dark fantasy,

loudly snaps the latex off his hands,

says, Maybe I'll see ya

not for a tattoo.

My husband's trust along my thighs,

his goodness in every

colored cut below my heart.

Holly Rose: my parents love,

my own reminder of loyalty I'll wear

with chance of only fading.

I listen

but leave the noise behind.