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The heart is no Valentine cookie, waiting to crumble in someone’s mouth. It’s uncooked meat longing for some heat. Mine is a flank steak. I fell in love with a boy who wanted me tender. He pounded my heart with a toothed mallet for six months. Pre-chewing, they call it. Every time he left me for his ex was a swing. I bore the blows, thinking if I wait he’ll love me more. My mother begged me to stop, told me to grow a backbone. But I already had one of those. How else could I stand in the kitchen baking cookies at two a.m.? I reached for the salt and knocked over the carton of eggs instead. She found me on the floor with the yolks—broken up like them, but louder—heaving hot blues and cradling my failed bowl of batter like a baby. Sixteen and howling he doesn’t want me anymore to the ceiling. I had become the woman in her memory, the broken lady in the floured apron who tried to bake love, thinking it was all she was good for.

Jessica Lee is the poetry editor of Sweet Tree Review.  Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Literary Review, BOAAT, The Boiler, DIAGRAM, and Fugue, among others. Her poem, “I confess, I don’t know what to call this,” is a finalist for the 2017 So to Speak Poetry Contest, judged by Natalie Diaz.