Courtney LeBlanc

~ after Marissa Glover

My mom grins, her small
teeth on full display, drops
her voice and says, It’s called
better than sex cake
. Her friends
giggle in response. I’m nine
and unsure what sex is – I know
it’s something that happens
between a man and a woman, but only
after marriage, otherwise it’s forbidden –  
I learned this in Sunday school. Sometimes
I balance naked Barbie on top of naked
Ken and put a blanket over them. 
They’re having sex, I tell my younger 
sister and she nods as if
she understands. Years later I will try this
cake and it’s so sweet my teeth ache.
I try not to think of my parent’s sex
life but when I heard my mother say
this, her smile wide as she swallowed
a piece of the confection, she had four
children at home – two teenagers
and two under ten. The cake probably
was better than their sex life.

Courtney LeBlanc is the author of the full length collections Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart (Riot in Your Throat) and Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press). She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Riot in Your Throat, an independent poetry press. She loves nail polish, tattoos, and a soy latte each morning. Read her publications on her blog: Follow her on twitter: @wordperv, and IG: @wordperv79

Three Poems by Courtney LeBlanc


Bees were going extinct – humans, pollution, urbanization quickly causing the humble bee unable to find pollen, to produce honey, to feed their queen, to survive. A movement began and suddenly everyone I knew had hives clustered in the far corners of their yards, a subtle buzzing audible on a quiet morning. I grew up on a farm, had honeybees in our fields, the bee man paying my mother in a case of honey each season, honey my mother baked with throughout the year, her bread pillowy and sweet, melting on my tongue on Sunday mornings, hot from the oven. Once bees got caught in the twin braids on the sides of my face, the buzzing loud in my ears as my sister carefully picked the insects from my hair. I wasn’t stung but my body pumped with adrenaline, certain those dying bees would pierce my scalp. I eat granola and Greek yogurt each morning for breakfast, make the granola myself, a recipe I concocted years ago. It uses 1/3 cup honey, so I buy the biggest jar from the store, measure the sticky sweetness into a saucepan, lick the golden color from my fingers. Bumble bees shouldn’t be able to fly – their gossamer wing too delicate, their round bodies too unwieldy. And yet they do, floating clumsily through the air, daring my dog to snap her jaws at them while they drink from the flowers that bloom each summer. I have no hives in my yard, don’t have the space for the white boxes. But I plant a garden each spring, stake the tomatoes and trellis the cucumbers. Watch the bees arrive, buzzing contentedly around the blooms in the bright heat of afternoon.


I’m reading a collection of poetry,
the entire book an elegy
to the poet’s dead husband. I think
of the poems I’ll write after
you die. Once you went missing
for hours – my texts and calls
unanswered and I was sure your mangled
body was bent around the steering
wheel, the car curled around a telephone
pole like a comma. Eventually you called –
you’d left your phone in the car while
grabbing a drink with a friend. In my mind
I hung the black dress in the closet, dried
the tears I hadn’t yet cried, erased the poems
I hadn’t yet written.


My mother cared for me
as a child – I’m certain of this,
though I have no recollection.
I flip through a photo album, find
a picture of my sister and me, chicken
pox covering our pale skin like stars.
I have no memory of my mother
rubbing calamine lotion onto my itchy
skin, no memory of her cool hand
on my fevered flesh, no soothing murmurs
whispered into my ear. I only remember
her, years later, telling us she exposed
my sister and me to infection, together,
because she didn’t want to deal with it
more than once.

Courtney LeBlanc is the author of Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), chapbooks All in the Family (Bottlecap Press) and The Violence Within (Flutter Press). She has her MBA from University of Baltimore and her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. She loves nail polish, wine, and tattoos. Read her publications on her blog: Follow her on twitter: @wordperv, and IG: @wordperv79