My Hand and Cold

Natalie Shapero

copyright ©2017 by Natalie Shapero

Of surgeons putting their knives to erroneous

body parts, stories abound. So can you really blame
my neighbor for how, heading into the operation,
he wrote across his good knee NOT THIS KNEE?

The death of me: I’m never half so bold. You will
feel, the doctor said, my hand and cold –

and I thought of the pub quiz question: which three
countries are entirely inside of other countries?
I bought the bound ONE THOUSAND NAMES
FOR BABY, made two lists: one if she’s born breathing,

one if not. The second list was longer. So much

that I might call her, if she were never to bear
the name, never turn to it, suffer shaming, mull its
range and implications, blame it, change it, move

away to San Marino, Vatican City, Lesotho.

My Poem Without Me in It

Sharon Olds

copyright ©2019 by Sharon Olds

My poem without me in it – would it be like
my room when I had returned to it
after my mother was done with me.
Under my bed, only the outer
space balls, of dust, only
the asteroids of hair, no bent-legs
spider drawstring purse, no fly, no
I. My poem without me in it, would it
be like her house before I was granted
the right to close my door – it had been one
hive, one queen five times my size, her
long stomach lolling like a tucker-bag.
My poem without me – like the mahogany
bookcase, with its spiral pillars,
without a book by a woman in it.
My poem without
a simile in it.
My poem like my head, as a child, when I learned
how not to have
a thought in it,
in case it were a thought one would burn for.
My poem without this ordinary female
in it – like the body politic
of a teenage woman without her special
blood in it. This old girl’s
poem without a girl in it.
I have been a child without a soul.
The poem is a vale of soul-making.

Now Rough, Now Gentle

Carl Phillips

copyright ©2013 by Carl Phillips

Never mind the parts that came later, with all
the uselessness, as usual, of hindsight: regret’s
what it has to be, in the end, in which way it is
like death, any bowl of sliced-fresh-from-the-tree
stolen pears, this body that stirs
                                            or fails to, as I
turn away, meaning Make it yours, or Hold tight,
or I begin to think maybe you were rightthat
there’s nothing, after … thought whether or not like
one of those moments just past having woken to
yet another stranger,
                          how the world can seem
to have completely stopped when, finally, it’s just
a stillness – who can say? First I envied them,
then I ame to love them for it, how the stars each
day become again invisible, while going nowhere.

Shebutnoy (trans. Salmon-fisher)

Abigail Chabitnoy

copyright ©2019 Abigail Kerstetter

(Michael) Chabitnoy. Aleut.

Because they were “of the water.”
Because they were given Russian names.
He was born with hushed words.
Because his mother had a bad heart and his father was traumatized.
They took him from the sea.

Because he came to the school charitably, before.
Because there is only one photo, after.
They told the skeptics, yes, it can be done.

Because it could be done.
Because “Indian Marries White Girl.”
Because he died of consumption.
There are words I can’t say.

Because he was survived by two sons.
Because they were called half-breed.
Because that second son took to drink.
I’ve always been afraid of the sea.

Because it doesn’t mean salmon-fisher.
Because I need to know I can say these words.
Because it means “mischievous, energetic.”
Mischievous men (and women) fish for salmon energetically.

Because he was an orphan.
Because in summer, my skin turns redder than my father’s.
Because they asked my mother, Is she adopted?

Because I too am of the water.
Because I hear these words.
I will split my bones and fit my skin to the sea.
I will shape my mouth to angle these words with the wind.


Denise Riley

copyright ©Denise Riley, 2016

I’ve lived here dead for decades – now you
pitch up gaily among us shades, with your
freshly dead face all lit up, beaming – but
after my long years without you, don’t think
it will be easy. It’s we dead who should run
whispering at the heels of the living, yet you
you’d put the frighteners on me, ruining
the remains of your looks on bewailing me
not handling your own last days with spirit.
Next you’ll expect me to take you around
introducing some starry goners. So mother
do me proud and hold your white head high.
On earth you tried, try once again in Hades.


Sarah Tolmie

copyright ©Sarah Tolmie 2018

In memoriam Tennyson said
Nine years of things about his friend
Who’d died. He brought him back by slow
Degrees, from sunsets, wind in the trees,

Gathering pieces painstakingly.
Tennyson, in his purity,
He never lied, never missed his line.
Grief became him metrically.

It made him blind. All he could see
Was Hallam’s absence: the whole world
A cancelled cheque, crumpled and furled,
Unspent inside his pocketbook.

There its yellowing edges curled
Until his friend crept out, imbued
Everything and made it new.
At second look, he saw it through

Lost eyes, and it was dearer far
Than it had been before. A borrowed
Death does that for you. Your own cannot.
We each will miss the lesson that

We’ve taught. Compassion is what we learn
From those who die and don’t return.
Grief gives us that hitch in the eye,
Catching on things as they pass by.

The Adorable Little Boy

Matthew Rohrer

copyright ©2004 by Verse Press

Today my ski boots disintegrated on my feet.
It is getting more difficult to play
the role of The Adorable Little Boy
now, and I will confirm what most of you
have suspected: I am ill,
I have the distinct sensation that my head
is donut-shaped. But don’t let that
stop me from wriggling my way
into your hearts, those of you
who are not empty blue suits.
I am still very aware, I am hyper-aware.
A beautiful ass makes me sneeze and cough!
But now I suspect you are looking for something
and here it is: Pliny described trees that speak.

from Baalbeck

Sarah Riggs, translated from the French written by Etel Adnan

copyright ©2019 by Etel Adnan / English translation © 2019 by Sarah Riggs


I am not going to sing.
A temple existed for real,
its stairs are solid

the gods, unwilling to
let go of it,
then decided to die …

leaving behind
although barbaric,
a sun that we loved.

In the sealed obscurity of the brain
plants grow,
and fish swim,
while we think we’re seeing
landscapes, and looking
at the sea.

we will not know if life is reversible
but written in the pain
a joy that hurts

even more,
as in the heart’s desertion
memory’s fingerprint.

from alterity

Kaie Kellough

copyright ©2019 by Kaie Kellough

… a two-day bus ride to the northern border where the family crossed into Canada, suitcases in hand.”
CBC News, September 13, 2017

welcome turning selves in, selves traveling through space, turning being in to paper
flesh becomes white fiber for deliberation, legality in question, self a question mark
welcome signatures, boxes checked on forms welcome dossiers deconstructed
sequences of numbers queued up to be filed, sorted, detained, catalogued, welcome,
interrogated, archived, speculated upon in the news, counted, and either welcome,
accepted, rejected, re-counted, queued up again, filed into a different queue, chased,
fled, welcome, or stalked in limbo in borgesian bureacratic labyrinths, trash-talked
by pundits, welcome, whispered about in polite living rooms, opined on from the
middle class on down, welcome, debated in wood-paneled parliament encircled by
welcome, by words, invoked to stoke fear, vilified as terror, as other, welcome, now
tossing on narrow army cots chrome and canvas reality, minimal without aesthetic,
the furniture of state aid of newsflash

We Were Never Meant to Break Like This

Billy-Ray Belcourt

copyright ©2017 by Billy-Ray Belcourt

1. follow me out of the backdoor of the world.

2. how do you tell someone that they are helping you stay tuned into life?

3. what does it mean that her first breath was also her last?

4. i am so sad that i burrow into the absence of every boy who has held me.

5. i kiss him knowing that when i wake up i will be in a body differently.

6. the future is already over, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have anywhere else to go.