The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Rachel Custer



For a woman who can’t afford teeth, it’s a well
to wish in. A different hell to twist in. A cell to
kiss in. Less a pail to piss in than this promise:
you’ll never care where you piss again. It’s the
machine of a human being who has said If I am
a machine, let them have my body. I will go to
live among the clouds
. And what is a drug but
a cold coin dropped down the well of a throat?
And what is a wish but a castle fashioned from
smoke? What is a tweaker? The unwinding
machine of a jaw, pumping the rusted pistons
of her teeth. What is crank? Hot glass. A brief
sheen. For a woman who can’t afford church,
it’s a burnt clean. Crank is the grease for the
newest American dream. For a woman who
can’t afford sleep, it’s the newest scheme:
cover the hurt of your work with the hurt of
your shame. Trade your bones for a good buck.
Turn the crank each day, each minute the same.
Get fired for stealing a pop from the lunch truck.




RACHEL CUSTER's debut collection The Temple She Became is available from Five Oaks Press. Her work has been previously published or is forthcoming in Rattle, The American Journal of Poetry, B O D Y, and Dialogist, among others. Links to more of her work can be found at



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