Archive 2019
Stewing Hen

Old girl’s pelvis
like a raptor skull,
fat on the broth
like gold. Utility
comes after utility,
so easily the meat
slips off the bone.


I am no-man’s man.

I am eye and bone

and bitter spoon, fed

and fleeing. Isn’t this

the thing. Magpie

and sparrow singing

so you can scream.




The doctor
Washes his hands
Nine months


He says until
We deliver your
Life or death



Somewhere what you love

is still alive, turning cartwheels

in a gentle snow.


A house is premised on
the hopefulness of doorways.
Mushroom spores lie dormant,
thunderless, in nearby loam.


Catullus 101

I love you and I can’t prove it.
I love you and you don’t know.



We abide by the size and structure
of the storm; we survive in spite of
our stature.


To drift is not surrender.


The backwards call of a bird

is the sound of another bird.

A Place Without a Person

A star drawn in my mother’s
dark blue planner
reminds me —
we need to be eased from place
to place. We need to be
eased from each other.

Of Magpies
Mother’s chewed-at fingertips

are instruments of measurement.

Over each

of her cells I pray

a successful harvest

against the appetite of magpies.



Skeins sheep-shorn, we gather;
make a nest. Bilberry bushes plucked
to bare red branches.


A day after rescuing the horseshoe crab, I find it overturned and broken in dry seaweed. Low tide undid me as well.

Childhood Home

I beg to move back in, even though the ceilings have been lowered and I am too tall to walk inside. I will crawl instead.



I close my eyes and I see a dot.

It becomes a spot of light.

It grows into the size of a person

who distances away

until it becomes a spot of light

a dot.

Mass Casualty Event

Watching from inside
the painting of war, our
faces and the face of the Major’s
child are white-gold torches
unstemming in the meadow


For Knowledge

Odin scoured his eye socket

like a dirty basin; hung

as a handkerchief 9 days

from the ash tree gallows—

Runes the same as ruin.



He enjoys honking trucks and kids’ vulgar shouting beneath our window—it reminds him of his childhood. And, me, of leaving childhood.

On a Tin Roof

Again, tonight, linear rain

against the tin roof I have


never slept under

sounds its circular refrain.

Persephone in Summer

like a honeycombed skull
I bury my face in its cavern
of seed Try to eclipse
these long dry months (more…)

rope and pulley 

down from the scaffolding
the worker lowers
his bag of tools
through the cherry blossoms




My crown, a bloom— my hide, a fort—
my heart, a beard— my foot, a heart.


Dad hawked spit at snow,
surprised he hadn’t disappeared
and north winds didn’t stop smelling
of a cop’s nightshift.



I thought you would make things certain
Like a window nailed shut to the sill.

Days thread in and out of months.
People walk by.
My neighbor
Eats an orange outside my door

And in the evening I pick it up
Swirl the peels over the table
And don’t wipe it for months.


the idea of green

beaks out
of a motherless egg,

its shovel tongue

in the winter’s dark.

Gulls, Too

Gulls sensing the fisherman
pulling the fish from the nets.
This is how I mourned you.
Swimming to the cave, letting the birds
near me.


Clouds misremember
sky sometimes. Ice
preserves what it can of ocean.


Your father
greases the discer: bearing grease, delo
grease, dark as the soil
it turns. Luminous, the little
drips silken.

Street Flowers

Pity the clematis this
little morning parliament

clinging to the vacant
mailbox       monarchless

Central Park Exit

translated by Stephen Priest

that’s all
the reservoir was.
The skyline
veiled it
like waterlilies.
The receipt you’d folded
into a sailboat
floated in the air.

Japanese Beetle in August

coneflowers have dried. red
and gold shrivel passed over.
the latest bee gone bored.
one light on the crusty brown
globe, a carapace glistens.

The Whale

This monster
in the deep of you
and me the sky

The sea blind

Hearts of tidal
the sound.

Cellpoems will return on January 11, 2014!

We’ll be on hiatus until just after the first of the year. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook for updates on our contributors, blasts from cellpoems’ past and more. Thanks for your patience. We will be back soon, better than ever.


The beloved becoming
a heap of cold sand.
This is the part where seabirds
sound like a murder. Where the waves
are nervous hands.


Movie Night

Outside, rain dazes
a trashcan. You snooze
like a child in a pew. The drapes
slow-dance in the draft.

Crescent Moon

He drove right into the
red crescent moon, he said.
I imagined it was made
out of parchment paper,
held by cheerleaders,
everyone cheering on
the other side.

Today’s Morality

A one-armed man
I didn’t ask what happened.


      for Koko Barnes

No finer thing can happen
to walls in a kitchen

than to seem this wet
with light–the two of us

within them growing
suddenly aware

of being outnumbered
by the spoons.

Stella Seated

        after a drawing by Milton Avery

What’s to see
of depth
are shadows

on her neck,
the rest
simple lines.

Her foot arches,
nails painted
in pencil;

but the
stays lit.

Why did you wear yellow hands?

I am waiting for you to say
something bright like water
or wanting or waste. You are
a giant emotion. I am
a series of small lights over there.


He stood backlit
by windows full of winter,
a shade thrown over his face.
What a waste, I thought.
What relief.

On first meeting

They tell us
they are

off the charts
and we agree.

Few wince

give over

to arrogance
knowing no better

of success.


Knock on metal.
You and your fingernails.
You’ve seen one tower,
you’ve seen them all.
We are our repetitions.
We are our repetitions.


Uncapped my tank and siphoned till
my water hose wet the waters
those thieves water their horses with.
Silent herd, tongues of fire.


I made a short film.
That film ended the world.
The story was simple enough:
a girl
went through
a door.


The ocean was in her,
they said, as if all along

the ship had had the desire
to drown–

even if only now
was she realizing it.

Of Newness

I could
say kiss
me, I am
a paper
bird, I am
brand new
and still
we’d be

Two Poems by Luis Alberto de Cuenca

The Hero

He lived. He died.
He knew how to be nothing and all
at the same time.


I open the door.
I find there´s nobody
outside or in.

El Héroe

Vivió. Murió.
Supo ser nadie y todos
al mismo tiempo.


Abro la puerta.
Descubro que no hay nadie
fuera ni dentro.


The ballistics of fear: proximity,
angle. A lash falls unnoticed

by body & bullet that rides out as a peace      party,
root of ambush.

Untitled (tanka by shōgun Minamoto no Sanetomo)

If only my relation to the world
were always like this—
a few fishermen
rowing a small boat
up the river’s edge.

Marchesa Grimaldi, Wife of Marchese Cateneo

This red umbrella points West
      but I will not hold it. I will hold a         branch
and I will never turn around
     to see what I have done.

Brief Memory Carrying a Twig in its Beak

All those fires
my father

kindled with
yesterday’s news

as I watched
the pages blacken

and flap, then
rise as crows.


It’s raining. But you’ve run out of bread.
The children plead for you to stay.

In an old umbrella, she tends her       thread,
fiddles her dirge of slow decay.

from the Greek Anthology

Feast day of Asklepius

On every corner, quinces are impaled
upon the boners of Hermes.


All the neighborhood’s
wireless networks
are whispering to each other.

At the Palazzo Barberini

As in amber,
bees in stone on the façades,
carrying honey to the gods.


I play a game some nights:
quarter an apple

and toss each piece
to a corner of the yard,

turn off the lights,
and wait for what might arrive.

Rubus fruticosus

My fingers search the filigree
in practiced choreography.
The ripest always lie
in thorn and shade,
way back, evade
my reach. I, bloody, try.


Love when young is feeling older,
Shot aflame with life in store.
Age more dimly, if no colder,
Burns with what it’s waiting for.

Sans Toi

I watch her grow ancient
     Taking down the book
Of her life.      Rereading
     The best chapter. (more…)

Sex Dream with Triceps

One ache. Another.
Today all I did was tuck
that photo into a book.


Here is the torment only the scorned       heart knows:
One side withers.          The other grows,       and grows.

Creation Myth

Convicted angels lie down
in the snow
and make people.

The Kiss

We made a wish
on the stars
of our mouths.


The lake freezes over
taking parts of us with it.
The parts that freeze
and break off in the lake.

Yelling at Snow

I am the new snowplow of the       neighborhood.
I’m yelling to melt it.
I can do it all without syllables.

The Night After He Says Her Name in Bed

I’m in the headlights of his car
when he comes home
with a pistol. In those two
bright white eyes.

Before the First I Love You

Rain and snow glossed the ground
below taxi cabs and park benches.
Our words like pigeons
on the sidewalk.

Keep from evil

Graffiti on a wall
around a Tel Aviv suburb:

“Existence is resistance.”
The Talmud says we  must build

a fence around the torah.

It’s not the bed that’s a boat

but sleep. On a rumple of waves, two           loosed canoes.

Soon I’ll find you
in your wooden ribs.

I’ll tie a rope. I’ll climb on.


It’s hard to see enough of people;
to see people at all may be enough.

Feed the Cassowary

Palm oval fruit bruise blue.
Flinch. Bone crest bobs,
muppet-mouth clackup.
Sharp amber eye. Flick down
double-wattled gullet.


translated by Don Share

play the cowbell well; everyone knows that a decent orchestra should have a Dineco on the cowbell.

Sweet Things

Don’t say you love me.
Tell me you’d slit the throats
of all your other boys
sleeping beautifully in their beds.
Me, I’m never in my own bed.


Certainty: sorrow’s flesh,
birch sleeves snow-brittle, a fawn
wolf-ravaged. How I crest the ridge
to see them swarm, circle back, dive again.

War Head

My smart bomb can lift,
     blooming beneath him,
          your sleepy boy
               from his crib.


Vegetarian Sushi

You’re made of the strangers in your ear,
composed of their parts.

Part of you reaches for the art on the       wall,
but yours is always with you.


We hold stones
blore fire ants
wait for prophets to open hills
to talk in bracts & petals of thistle
& we labor to lissen.

Pious Scholars Rare

after Pascal

O the ringing temptation, leaving          chaired ones fang-bitten:
comparisons to The Teacher, saying, “It         is written.”


Not a Moon

This is not a moon b/c it is a thing
& moons are up in the sky at night
It will be a light       like a ball
that bounces       & makes music
like Soundrop       This is not a moon
b/c it is good & dark (more…)

Summer Vacation

Dear friends:

Cellpoems is taking a short break for the summer months. We plan to return the first week of September, and have already lined up a slate of new (very short) poems for you.

We will still be accepting submissions through the summer, and plan on keeping you updated on our travels and projects via Twitter and Facebook.

We close out another great year with two poems: one from Aubrey Jane Ryan (which is already on our website), and a very special poem from seven-year old Patrick Pethybridge entitled “Not a Moon,” which is on its way to subscribers this afternoon.

Thank you for friending, following, and subscribing this year. We hope you all have a wonderful summer, and we can’t wait to bring you more beautiful poems in 140 characters this fall.

The Editors



There is no other place:
the bearing of it. My belly
is a split log. Again and again.


Again and again, then: your cry, your fall
from me. There’s the world & then
there’s this: you mucky bundle, you sudden boy.


perhaps it’s their language
slowly devolving into a flock of birds
the exchange of obsessions between        planets
auditoriums of empty chairs

Me in My Place

No matter what
you’re up to
the wind in the tall trees
sounds the same.


Rain simmered
the lake –

all that water
into water

made me feel
hungry for words

which cannot
say what I

so readily hold
with empty hands.


Turn out the lights;
Let moths live normal lives.
Days become nights;
Flights–purposeless dives.


Yes, I have often battled Grief.
Both of us used our teeth.

Erasure I

She was full of people who

cried out
to stop


The wretched animal
only his head above water;

New Regime

In the main square, an empty plinth
on which the children play.
Only the parents recall the god
and how it got carried away.


Each of us stands on the heart of earth        alone
pierced by a ray of sun:
then sudden dusk.

Brief History of Romanticism

From a sun so ancient it can’t shine
without summoning an epithet, I see

what I was never meant to see.

Wetipquin Cemetery

On cloudy days we visited
the moldering graves of old
gods. It was easy to pity
their empty vases till
we remembered the storms
they made. (more…)

The Escape

All the guard
saw was a wall

with two hands
on top. Then–

squinting and
rising some

from his chair–
just the wall.

Warsaw II

Little boys play war by the city gates.
Brittle ploys lay scores into shallow graves.


Land of butter queens and lutefisk,
here spring is a kiss at dawn
before your lover leaves you
with nothing but the sidewalk
to salt.


Either a good man
never walks behind you
or you never stand behind
a good man. If I could recall
where my father stood
when he told me, I’d know.

Winter Day

Smoke of myself
today you are visible.
Only the fire is hidden.


To rise without rising.
To move without moving.
Whole cities in your feet.

After +

He admits seven years,
an ironic itch of minutes,
hours. Dazed, I swim
in Blue-Boy eyes, go home
homeless & test bloody
waters with a toe. –


are like
the leaves on
the trees in
the fall

(translated by Geoffrey Brock)

Epitaph for a Dead President

Here he lies no more,
But tells the truth at last,
The whole truth, in the clipped
Green syllables of the grass.

In the dream I am a strange dealer

Pain is carried out of the wrists, breasts

Watered from

Its central hook

But the aggregate
Line of me

Is stealth bent.


Cirrus whispers
splotch sky.

A plane severs
form, space–

fruit fly,
half-finished canvas.

Wind lifts scraps of news:
bombs in Jerusalem, baseball.

What the Snail Is

tiny measuring tape
with which God measures the field.

(translated by Joshua Beckman and Alejandro de Andrade)


Crickets plant their blue flags
atop the evening
with tiny glass hammers.

(translated by Joshua Beckman and Alejandro de Andrade)

Definition of a Seagull

Seagull: foam eyebrow
on wave of silence.
Kerchief of shipwreck.

(translated by Joshua Beckman and Alejandro de Acosta)



Mostly tedium:
Light, shadow
retreat, advance
across the dust’s expanse.
Sparrows worry insects,
one limbless as an antique statue.

The Witch, Gretel, the Oven


She laid out gumdrops,
gummed her knuckles
& said, you will be a good mouthful.


She would be a good mouthful.
She painted icing on her face
& wore it like she knew.


She played like
she didn’t know her
way in. The witch wasn’t blind,
but showed her how
& showed her how again.

Slave Ship (after Turner)

Such a distance now
between the masts
and the bound hands of the dead–
the salt and the dark,
the bruises hand-like shapes.

apology & mulberries

the nightgowns came
blocked with dust,
dance of the past

and it was beautiful:
the idea of holding
the tickets soon arriving.


On Buying a Wedding Dress

My legs still
beneath rustling tulle,
like unrung tongues
inside a bell.

Lament of the Greek

Am I
to be
as a torso?
I had such
beautiful hands.


A Theory of the Final Girl

I wanted for my life
to stretch out everlastingly blue
& wide as the Urals
brains of beryl, kidneys of coal. (more…)


It’s as if his poems happen twice.
First as the bullet that pierces the skin;
second as the tracer whose flare
ribbons the dark with carmine.

Read Valerio Magrelli’s “I’ve often imagined gazes” at Poetry International >>

The Family Tree

grows less delicate.
With grace, the branches
thicken, then split

in pirouettes. Ornate
paper stock announces
another birth I’ve missed,

which doesn’t matter.


We’ve all wondered what happens when George Jones gives way to the Devil. Wonder no longer.

Listen hard: “RADIO ALL NIGHT SPECIAL AM” at Devil’s Lake


The ticking of my wristwatch
masks the shudder of my pulse
ten thousand sepia moth wings
wind in a paper cathedral


Both a sound-smith and a poet incredibly adept at creating vivid imagery, Coutley can still sucker punch you with an unexpected “jerk.”

Read the poem at Verse Daily >>


Schiavo’s mad songs speak with the startling confidence of a seer, the bravado of Walt Whitman, and the vulnerability of a romantic.

Read “from The Mad Song” at No Tell Motel >>

We’re Back!

Gentle Readers:

Those of you who tried to come to our website during the last few weeks discovered that our site was down for maintenance. Thank you for your patience while we were away dealing with issues that included (but were not limited to): a protracted website migration, an orphaned domain that could only be recovered with multiple faxes to Australia, a trip to the ER for a taco dinner-related finger injury, an EKG and lung X-ray to facilitate a trip to China, and one full viewing of Troll II. Doesn’t that sound like an outline for the best “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” essay ever? We think so too, so we’ve decided to call the last few weeks our summer vacation — and we’re so happy that school is back in session early this year.

With love,



Birdwatchers drop twelve of their ways, see thirteen black omens.
Stevens had a camera; Jeff Tigchelaar has changed the lens.

Read “One Way of Looking at Thirteen Blackbirds” >>


“There Will Come Soft Rains” uses bird-songish rhyme to construct a study of human insignificance.

Read “There Will Come Soft Rains” >>


Poch’s poem is a room in a crumbling mansion.
On its frayed red rug the tongue quietly dances.

Read “The Tongue” >>


Little just-begun, dough rising,
sparrow northward, kicker south.
Lentil to grapefruit, you sleep-step sidewise,
turnover, pop-up, tongue in the mouth.


Because the equal sign hasn’t been invented yet
the horizon can’t choose where to settle down.
No matter—a manageable god is a dangerous god.

Columbus, OH

Sometimes soap
is the only lovely thing
in a hotel room. The lay
of dumb thin veins across
my heart will never budge
like golden mats
of sargassum in the sea.


Do not pity water
its ancient edgelessness.
From a holy highway of birds,
rain thinks of you as a souvenir.

Pollinate This

As a bee rides the panoptic wave
of a clover’s stamens and pistil,
so the eye wades through each buzzing       word’s
pervious thistle.

Girl Lesson #4

Beware men built in cities of sling-shot       sun,
the rays of light that ricochet
off the canyons in their eyes.

Girl Lesson #3

You were born with a paper lantern for a       heart,
the skin lit from within, the light in       danger
of going out.

Self-Portrait as the Local Weatherman

He who worships the wind
must make a sacrament of hairspray.

From “15 Places to Take your Rhinoceros: A Gentleman’s Guide”

15. The opera

Your rhinoceros will want to view you
as stoic but dominant
and may watch you during Dido’s                    Lament.
Remain composed. Wear gold.


Matt Ladd questions whether knowledge drives people apart, and then proves that yes, indeed, it does.

Read “Fountain of the Planet of the Apes” at Verse Daily >>


Nancy Kuhl fishes a drowned woman from the Niagara Falls in a poem that mimes a slide-reel. Creepy, cold-hearted, brilliant.

From “15 Places to Take Your Rhinoceros: A Gentleman’s Guide”

9. The Grand Buffet

Do not undertake this trip until you feel       comfortable
with your rhinoceros. This will be a       lesson in delicacy.

The Sting of Religion

Everything, everything, everything has      its cost.
I own a spirit animal, but it’s a wasp.

Pattern and Sand

I hear a dog barking right after I buckle my pants.

And the geese scatter like blood.

from “In the Language of Tongues”


A starling’s descent
makes a bush
flame & talk

a child’s cry
over a garden wall
brings a crowded street
to a halt.

Self-Portrait in Six Rivers

I drowned the same man
in three rivers.

Nothing keeps him
dead. Every sin floats.

The Rainbow Leaves Rasped

on the night I burned
our barn & owls shone
their spotlights in smoke
as if to say we owe
each other still

Midwinter, South Mobile County

Sky full of biplanes
fence patched

the beagle tests
nine acres of straw-brown grass

dreams only of red dirt
to kick back like buckshot

While I, in Ohio, Dreamed of an Intruder

The sun snuck
onto the roof
of my father’s
house in Texas,
the colony
of spiderwebs
into view.


The wine in the communion cup                        to the drunk
is like the hospital handrail to                      the skater punk. (more…)


The distance between an old married      couple
Flashes of gold beneath the fishpond ice


I did it for the plot
Odysseus said. There was scenery
and nothing to put in it.


Bibles on a subway car.
Rifles in a Soviet bar.

Why Translation Matters

Because I need you to carry me
over the threshold to bed.

This is what they say

This is what they say—
when she hurts, song birds nest
on her shoulders & vines send tendrils
up her legs, lest she float upward,
departing to the clouds & sky forever.

This is what they say—
somewhere over the horizon beckons
more horizon, while down the road,        more road,
that some dreams deserve to die
& we should learn to tell time.

This is what they say—
love is homespun stitches & the        Thorazine shuffle,
all bucket of nails, rickets and spider,        rabid bit
& strapped to a gurney. Laugh it off,        love.

DIY FML Daymare Mnemonic

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.”


Mid-Term Depression

Pour out passion.
Toast evenings without heat,
or heated talks.

The spice leaves fall unfastens
from their stalks
do not blame cold for a defeat.


The devil is not more
Diplomatic in

Welcoming our forays
Into the earth.

We riddled the mountain
Until it answered.

And the moon

shut in cold blue light,
in blown snow, my son’s
breath a forgiveness a road-
side x a windshield a
tunnel a handful of pebbles.

The Third Girl Who Disappeared

blamed the pine trees, perfectly inserted
into dull sand hills, brush brush
           brushing away
any face that tried to form.

The Great American Novel

Whale leaves home, strikes it rich.

These Bestial Nights


So long to the horses: this night
we go out from the lake’s surface,
our hair tied together.
Now is the sound of floating.


Enter the water: the hairs
on your skin will rise
to meet the sun
when it’s dawn & we’re deep


down the fin’s shine, the sand
lifting from earth.
Everything is suspended here.
No horse, go home.


Here: a siren.
It’s a while till morning.
Let’s swim till we can’t remember
so far as we can make it without

City Apartment

Our walls so thin, we followed
the lives of our neighbors. Now
our house is quiet.
We have nothing to live in.

The Book of Lamps, being a psalm-book


Drug-tired, at a loss, above the lucid waves.


Palms rested on the railing (like anyone
looking out at the Pacific sun-set).


Palms pressed against the railing, the      last
solid thing held, the limit touched—
drug-tired from the chronic drag of days.


Palms open to the light-
ness in letting go: liberty, relief—
but also plummeting and irrevocable;
the waves, unsparing.


Palms pressed flat up
against the wailing wall
in your gut, ulcerous,
pocked by guilt, shame—
secret pains in being.


Palms open and upturned,
good little supplicants,
what is their (secret) prayer?—
what is open to praise?


Candor?—the grace of accuracy
to say what happened? Facts
merely disclosed by the Angel
of the Police Report?


The right note to elicit
briny-air?—or that thick beach-chill
along the skin at dusk? The nouns
to summon it.


The fall is four seconds long, the body
reaches a speed upwards of—as physics
describes the case.


(The truth is I know the truth is
made through work: lucid, unsparing).


Fat palms pressed into your
eye-sockets: that dark, that pressure,
the gates of inwardness.


Posture of exhaustion,
and resignation as the palms
wash your cheeks, fingers
to lips, breathing, eyes
open on the clearing:


the lucid waves, your un-
sparing inwardness,
irrevocable wilderness.


No blaze or fire-track
marking the trail back. Palms
resting on the railing,
at a loss, exhausted.


At a loss in the wilderness,
wandering the weird inwardness
of chronic insomnia.


O sad gargantuan, worn-out
from the unrelenting haul
of days, encumbered by waves,
a wailing wall, a wilderness,
all within and hauled up to the gates—


that dark, that pressure, open them out:


yet inwardness itself,
it seems, must be expiated
as in primal-scream therapy?


Fat palms at your temples, holding
your whole monstrous
concentration, holding
the irrevocable
wilderness at bay.


Even at bay, even that primal-scream
betrays (secret) pains in being
dragged under the inertia of days.


Exhausted by chronic insomnia,
exhausted from the haul against
the inertia within depression, drug-
tired and dragged under
the monstrous pressure


of blank days and blanker nights,
and unsparing waves being inwardness.


Palms pressed against the railing,
pressed against the gate-work—being
both the case and its chronic cause—


the limit: the weight and unrelenting
pressure that bars the clearing.


The limit feels like that—monstrous,
pocked, ulcerous, irrevocable,
lucid, wailing, unrelenting,
unsparing, secret, plummeting,
at a loss, exhausted.


The case feels like that—days being      waves,
waves being being: chronic, dragged      under
inertia, dark with pressure, drug-tired.


Dusk-encumbered, pressed between the      clearing
of the blank day, the blanker night.


The case against inwardness—you
breathe (at a loss) into the half-mask
your hands make—no one can hear


as you stand palms pressed to the railing
like anyone looking out for the clearing
of the Pacific sky.


Fat palms stroke fat thighs, then
back to the railing. The waves no
less lucid, indifferent.


Looking out, even your eyes, exhausted.
Looking inward—for the clearing—
through that dark, that pressure,
through the gate-work.


O sad gargantuan can you psalm
the limit-work against the monstrous      weight
within lightness that bars the clearing?

My Friend’s Divorce

She should have known
he was a balcony of snow.

Repent It, Acrobat

Spared & spared & spared & spared &      strung
for one uncareful pirouette:
every nimble’s luck runs out,
every ankle finds its ambush pin.

Donner some et

When hungry for a bit of mirth,
we reads what brings us chuckles.
When in the mood for finger food,
we bites down to the knuckles.

Twilight Field

The spirits play a children’s game;
they pose as trees in clover.
I look. They stay. I look. They stay.
I look again. They’re closer.


to look at the sky
without exposing the throat.

from “A Short Treatise on the Nature of the Gods”


Every day a snake eats its own head.
Day swallows itself.
Night is the eyes in the mouth.

Remember to forget to remember
Everything you know.


Earth in the deepening groove
Some mind’s coruscation      the sun
On the blue water fleshes out
The face gathers around a voice

Insomnia is Lonely

Though it needn’t be.
It has me.

To an Acclaimed Poet

On paper you’re a glistering paragon.
Unless it’s paper that you’ve written on.


From toile to étoiles—
a masthead moving
across cloudless
peach-black skies.

from ‘Puritanisms’


I confess thoughts
I do not want thoughts.
I confess words
I spoke to think
words in others what I cannot think
in myself:

Wilderness, bewilder.


Proud where I should feel shame
Shameful where I should feel pride

Great, gray goose
The one-strand river has no other side


This diary meant      for other eyes
Is how I am naked      when I arrive

This pudency is the selfish blank

This name      a scent


Thumbprint of a landstorm,
redbrowns pocketed
in folds of sediment,
rough bedrock tendons:
A canyon bed takes
earth’s loose deposition.

Glass Tears

I stopped working
for the Sad Catalog
years ago, but I keep
finding the perfect items
to feature in it.

On Vanishing Acts

The magician says watch closely.
The lover says close your eyes.


Herd of Brangus,
horns like speckled
as fruitbread.

In the Verbena, the Bees

are auxiliary verbs again:
am, is,
are, was,
were, be,
being, been.

On Last Lines

The last line should strike like a lover’s      complaint.
You should never see it coming.
And you should never hear the end of it.

Wherever I was

There were sticks in my hands.
The sticks were taken away.
There were
two horses and one was red.


The ball is gone.
Now only the clinking
of the dragged chain with every step.


For our daughter’s sake, I’ll remember       sweat
like an hour glass on the back of your       shirt
as you axed the felled branches for      winter.


The man who first crushed flour       understood
you’d come, oil and water on your       hands.

On Considering the Career of a Minor Poet

The tenure track. The afterglow.
The rage, the Prize. You never know.

At a Shell Station

While working the graveyard shift,
I see Aphrodite in the froth
of a rabid dog’s lips.


Beneath two arches
a straight line,
scrawled into the child’s
blue imagination
the prison shape for bird.

On the Hook

A double omega,
Zeno’s arrow suspended,
while the universe curls its tail.

the winter sky bleeds

in brown-red.
The starless
nearness drowns the heartless.
The sleepless read in bed.

From the Greek Anthology

Blessed one

of the blonde braids

why did you leave

[                              ] my fingers

smelling of goat?

Love Poem

I have washed the only good cup for your       morning coffee.

Videotape 72

Motion away from the spectacle
a specter moves w
you: on the piste from Douentza to
tu two
4 x 4s
are ants along a ledge

So much a poet he despises poetry

wary weary of the tempest in him
his soul’s dainties
      as in a gruff wind
between buildings downtown
a sculpted modern
      keeps her hands tight
to her thighs
to keep her skirt
            from flying up!


He drank a lot
and fell into the river
we waded out to get his hat
A man who’s really good at what he does
looks the same as other men


Suzanne, tell me if dying is like those       sounds
before opening eyes: the sharp caw,       the
train’s moan, the school bus revving       across
the street.


The day is dark before it is day and so I curl back to sleep but cannot forget a thing: pots and pans, tumblers, an object shaken.

From the Greek Anthology

[         ] The Samian whore Nika
fed me over-ripe figs [           ]

and lentils dressed in fish sauce

[                                              ]

so I treated her

            to a bit of my butt music


Ever since you touched my wrist, the       world is a room full of apples.

Main Character’s Diatribe to Writers

I was Lucifer, lost

I, I, I

waste my life
in Pine Island, Minnesota,

fuck with the mailman
at midnight.

With you,
Mr. Hart, I find myself

still bored.

Free Verse

Each time I try to write my head,
I end up writing feet instead.

Civilization and Its Discontents

I’ve never received a telegram,
and now it’s too late!

Winter in the Dry Counties

The season has gotten old again, with a       price tag.
Birds lurch from the fields like a flock of       punctuation.

Videotape 62

an airliner flivvers to
god & misbegot that
took its arabesque to
bury there



Found Poem

When I wake up at 11 o’clock,
I am supposed to be daytime.
4 o’clock I am awake. Why?
Think about it.

Swine Flu?
Perhaps tomorrow
we shall have Fish Flu.

Time Passing

A damp woolen coat hung over the sharp       hook of what you remember.

Your Honor

I’m Charles, the black sheep
who swims against the rising tide.


We are our own the way a river swallows
itself. The need that need follows       follows.

Scribbles in the Dark

A shout in the street.
Someone locking horns with his demon.
Then, calm returning.
The wind tousling the leaves.
The birds in their nests
Pleased to be rocked back to sleep.
Night turning cool.
Streams of blood in the gutter
Waiting for sunrise.


He loved luxury and ate like a pig.
But the servant who brought him his chocolate in bed
found him in floods of tears.
Mortality proposed itself to him in the form of music.

From a Collapsed Hay Bale

skygrey owl perusing clouds
dead tree periscope
and night hiding somewhere
on the other side of the world


Astronomers report: for perhaps 2 billion years, a black hole has been singing.

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Erin J. Mullikin
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