Expect them to be at weddings,
school events, marathons, the
obstetrics ward at the hospital
waiting silently for the right
moment, the bloody swirl of a
newborn’s head crowning. They
are hidden in all kinds of places—
under tongues, in
someone’s pocket, beneath a
car seat. Somewhere in Boston,
someone is wailing over the
death of their eight year-old
child. How can we look ourselves
in the mirror and believe that we
are good? How many more times
are we going to ask how someone
is capable of doing something like
this? A wrong step, maybe a glance,
maybe nothing at all, maybe a
word or a sigh, maybe we are all
bombs, maybe we are all ticking
and filling the world full with all of our
noise. Somewhere in Boston,
someone is wailing over the death
of their eight year-old child.
To my daughter I will say,
‘when the men come, set yourself on fire.’
— Warsan Shire, “In Love and In War”
I’ve been pulling on this electric cigarette
for hours, the sweet taste of nicotine tickling
the back of my throat. I admire myself in the
mirror as I let it dangle between my fingers
like an extra limb. I sit out on the window
ledge and watch as neighborhood boys chase
each other, shirtless, on their bikes. I let my
hair down and feel like Rapunzel. I look like
a summer storm in my dress, feet hanging bare
out of the window. I flick pretend ash onto the
pavement below. Downstairs my father is
watching a documentary about lions. As the
narrator waxes on about its predatory skills,
I realize that I always sympathize with the
You who have inhabited me
in the deepest and most broken place,
are going, going.
My body fills and fills like a tumbler
of lemonade poured by God. I am
a hundred light bulbs burning out.
I am your favorite dessert. I am opening
and opening and I feel as though I cannot
open anymore or my legs would surely grow
flowers from the back of my knees.
I am overflowing the bathtub. I am spilling
spilling spilling clean.
- Sierra DeMulder
I think a lot about that whale who
sings in a pitch that no other
whales can understand. Maybe
they’re just too tired to sing back,
or maybe they know the truth:
that love is an onslaught, that it
smashes into you like an iceberg
and it doesn’t matter if you’re
built like a ship—you’ll go down
anyway, bow first, break in half
like the Titanic and crash into the
ocean floor, miles apart. You’ll
rust long before you’re able to
pull yourself back together again
and it will take years for future
lovers to find your exact
coordinates and bring what’s left
up to the surface, to the sun.
I am already selfish enough for
wishing my body was something
different, something other.
It is easier to love you this way
knowing that I can’t have you, that
I’m not the only one who doesn’t
have anyone to come home to.
You think no one notices how you
look at him but when I come
away from you I am sunburned.
Yours is the kind of desire that
scorches. I shower in the dark
to avoid all traces of you. I am
trying to be kinder to myself but I
am still a work in progress, a
lighthouse for the lost.
you will read these poems that I have
written and see what I have seen in you.
You will know how I’ve lusted after you,
the whole sweet ripe otherness of you,
will know that I have written pages and
pages dedicated to the way your mouth
curves when you hear a joke you don’t
particularly care for. You will know that I
write about you always, that even when
you were busy memorizing someone
else’s spine I was dedicating poems about
the seasons to you. One day I will come
to you and hand every single poem
where you’ve crept between the stanzas
over and it will all make sense.
There can’t be anything more romantic
than the life of a cicada. There is a certain
breed that stays burrowed underground
for eighteen years. Eighteen years. Think
of all of those Christmases and birthdays
and Halloweens spent buried deeply in the
ground, waiting patiently for the soil to
ripen to just the right temperature before
sprouting up like flowers. They are hungry
for love, cicadas, will sing until whole cities
are humming with their sonnets, their top
40 hits, waiting for the perfect mate so that
they can burrow back into the ground for
another eighteen years. We count the days
with the kind of patience we reserve for
children at the playground. We use socks,
towels, old t-shirts as insulation in our
windows and doors, preparing ourselves
for the onslaught. When it comes, we are
still surprised. We sleep with earplugs.
We turn the volume up on our televisions,
radios. We forget that love is not always
quiet. That what is labeled as noisy to us
is the sound of love to another cicada.
he taught me how to ride a bike for
the first time. I was nervous from the
understanding that I was too old to
try to learn how to do this now, but he
was patient. There were children at
the playground who stared at us as I
gripped the handlebars too tightly. His
hands were the training wheels and
when they fell away all I could think
about was making it to the wide span
of his arms as he stood waiting for
me to peddle back to him. It took a
bruising to both knees and an elbow
to learn that he would wait for me no
matter what kind of shape I was in
when I returned. This is how I love
your son: in bicycles, in long stretches
of summer heat, in the drive back to
his house where we take turns studying
each other’s knees scrupulously under
the soft light of a setting sun. The first
cry belongs to the cicadas. The second
is entirely our own.
It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?
— Pat Schneider, “The Patience of Ordinary Things”
Vitamin D. Sunlight. Go
outside. Get a good night
of sleep. Not too good.
Not shades drawn forever
good. Not like you used to.
Open the windows.
Buy more houseplants.
Breathe. Meditate. (One day,
you will no longer be
afraid of being alone
with your thoughts.)
Exercise. Actually exercise
instead of just googling it.
Eat well. Cook for yourself.
Organize your closet, the
garage. Drink plenty of water
and repeat after me:
I am not a problem
to be solved. Repeat after me:
I am worthy I am worthy I am
neither the mistake nor
the punishment. Forget to take
vitamins. Let the houseplant die.
Eat spoonfuls of peanut butter.
Shave your head. Forget
this poem. It doesn’t matter—
there is no wrong way
to remember the grace of your
own body; no choice
that can unmake itself.
There is only now, here,
look: you are already
- Sierra DeMulder
Do not ask me about his
ankles. Or his spine. Do not
ask me about his wrists or
his ribs. I agonize over his
mouth, but do not ask me
about it. Do not ask me if he
is a good kisser. Do not ask
me how I am able to speak
to him without kissing him.
Do not ask me how I don’t
come away from him with
his mouth imprinted on me
like ink. Do not ask me how
I am not falling apart at the
joints like wax from thinking
about it. Do not ask me. Do
not ask me about his mouth.
— Kristina Haynes, “?”
You think that it must be spring
with the way he leaves a bouquet of
flowers just beneath your ribs. You
finger the tiny blooms, give them
names like ‘carnation’, ‘tulip’, ‘lily’
and ‘daisy.’ You find yourself
stuck between the velvet blue
of new bruise and the jaundiced
yellow of healing skin. You feel
like a field of dandelions. A weed
pretending to be a flower. Yours
is a body that is no longer a body
but a reward he gets to cash in
when he tells you that he loves
you. That he won’t ever do it
again. You didn’t know spring
could be so brutal. You look for
the sun in his knuckles.
This is what they call you when
you’re not around to hear it. This
is their weapon of choice, what
they bring with them into the
trenches when the enemy closes
in. This is the final bomb, the
kamikaze, the gun pressed to
the back of a child’s neck. The
first time you hear it you aren’t
sure what to do with it: swallow
or be swallowed. I was twelve.
Not even my mother could
console me. It is a splinter in
the skin. A burn after the sun. It
can take days to fully heal and
even when it does, you never
fully recover. You wear it like
scar tissue, a reminder that you
survived. But it cost you.
— Kristina Haynes, “Bitch”