Nissa Lee


I've read starvation chews
marrow and the soft tissue of hearts,
scares families enough they cut
muscle and fat from ligament, cold
makes them crawl into their horses' skins.

Adirondack tribes stripped shells
of white pines, carved out the sweet dermis
to stay alive in the freeze.
A blocked path was a blessing—
large harvest for needle tea
and crispy bark chips.
But it was a sticky spirit
they forced down their gullets
and heard groan in their guts.

Is this emptiness preferable
to the abstract emptiness
I hoard in my throat?
I am not the dead horse
animated by a shivering man.
Nor am I the tree, naked
at the roadside, calling for help.

I'm outside of this story.
I want to reach into the book,
relieve them of their belongings
in autumn. I want to say
Move faster. Get out.
Don't trust home.
It wraps the blanket tight
before we fall asleep. There is more of it
every winter, it's getting harder to speak.

But the page resists—one-way gate.

I know some will live. Some will walk
through spring grass and leave
bones where bark once was.

Nissa Lee's poetry has appeared in Mason's Road, The Raleigh Review, Cleaver Magazine, Requited, Wicked Alice, and Philadelphia Stories with an honorable mention for the Sandy Crimmins Prize. She was also named a finalist for the 2013 Normal Prize in poetry. She teaches at Rutgers University–Camden and Rowan University.

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