I do it the old-fashioned way
tie string around the finger
except instead try rope-to-throat
though the last word’s still “remember.”


When I wrote this poem, I was in a state where I was thinking about “figures” (metaphor, simile, analogy, metonymy, synecdoche, and so forth) in a visceral way: not as decorative flourishes, but as transformative agents, shape-shifting forces, portals. I was considering the possibility that figures aren’t always two-way streets, that saying can be a kind of making or doing, and that a thought “refigured” might be lost in its new form forever. I was also thinking about the body present in the word figure, and I attempted to enact a shift in which an innocent “gesture” takes an irreversible turn. I thought it was important to give the poem a title that pointed away from any sense that I might be speaking “for” anyone else. I certainly wanted to speak “to” the spiral of self-harm (a slippery slope that is no fallacy), but I didn’t want to claim any unearned authority. The brevity of the “cellpoem” form felt suited to a space I permitted myself to inhabit only as “daymare”.


Dora Malech was born in 1981, grew up in Maryland, earned a BA in Fine Arts from Yale in 2003, and earned an MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2005. Her awards include a Clapp Fellowship from Yale, Capote and Teaching-Writing Fellowships from Iowa, a Glenn Schaeffer Fellowship, and a Civitella Ranieri Fellowship. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Poetry London, and elsewhere. She is the author of Shore Ordered Ocean (Waywiser, 2010), and Say So (CSUPC, forthcoming). This Fall, she’s Poet-in-Residence at Saint Mary’s College of California.

'Pastoral', Mark Yakich

'Tanka', Matthew Rohrer

'Columbus, OH', Aimee Nezhukumatathil