Poem of the Week | March 14, 2022

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Pockabook” by L.J. Sysko!

L.J. Sysko’s work has appeared / is forthcoming in Mississippi Review, Ploughshares, Limp Wrist, SWWIM Every Day, Degenerate Art, Moist, Radar, BEST NEW POETS, and her poetry chapbook: BATTLEDORE (Finishing Line Press, 2017). A 2022 Palm Beach Poetry Festival Thomas Lux Scholar, Sysko has been honored with both Virginia Center for Creative Arts and Delaware Division of the Arts Fellowships; her poetry has earned finalist recognition from Copper Nickel’s Jake Adam York Prize, Marsh Hawk Press, The Missouri Review’s Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize, Patricia Dobler Poetry Award, and The Pinch, among others. She can be found online at ljsysko.com.



We made 2nd base out of
oak tree catkins.
                Mound of tumbleweed

We made witch’s brew out of
a hollow stump.
                Cauldron of acorns
                stirred with twigs.

We made microphones out of
Goody hairbrushes.
                Paddles of glittered plastic
                and shed hair.

We made pockabooks out of
mom’s pockabook.
                Pouch of Binaca
                and Jackie O sunglasses.

We made cigarettes out of
candy cigarettes.
                Tuiles of cellulose
                and powdered tapioca.

We made adultness out of
                We made it up until
                we believed it. We made

them buy it. We made work fun and
fun work and
                life work and work
                life and work work—

carrying our stirring twigs
like medieval torches,
                brandishing hairbrush microphones
                like ambitious witches, gripping candy cigarettes

like grown women, clutching dusk
like its acquiescence to night was our skilled negotiation—.
                Red rover, red rover,
                send her over—

to swim in an estuary
the size of
                our street corner.
                Fish swimming

like loose Velamints—
                in the muddy shoals
                of mom’s pockabook—

on its banks, shadows played
our game.
                Feints and steals formed a ceremony
                made up of sisters

and pretense
that time made


Author’s Note

I’ve been jogging my poems down the thematic cul-de-sac of loss, cutting across nostalgia’s backyard — headed instead for transformation and, farther: toward paean. We don’t always arrive (paean doesn’t answer her doorbell every time), but the quest’s been fruitful anyway. My mom quit smoking when I was five and though I don’t remember her smoking, I do recall the nicotine substitutes she stocked and toted. The mints swam deep inside my mom’s purse. I might not have located paean down there in the wreck, but transformations — semblances and stand-ins — abounded. If you pronounced the word “pockabook” like we did, well, then you know… we’ve got something like joy on our hands.