Jessica Poli


There was plenty to be afraid of.
Fox River, high and loud,
drowned me every night.
The shack I slept in bled.
I was capable of more, I told myself
every time the floor opened up.
Every half-moon, I nocked another arrow
and roamed the woods looking for a cure.


I can't carry the rain
we sit on the steps
I hand you my elbow

we should let the insects hurt us
and we should coil ourselves
inside tunnels of glass
smell the smoke through our skin
and bark at water

blinking in the tall grass,
you spy a nightmare
of every nightmare you've ever had
and say Jesus, please,


When I said Listen closely, I meant
There's a canyon in my mouth.
I meant I've never been so afraid.
The red sun coming through the trees
was like blood through teeth.
I stared at the sky and thought
I am my father
I am my father
I am my father.


No place here for revival. No cloth between teeth to dull the pain. I dream a dead raccoon wrapping its tail around my neck. My hands become khakied soldiers with guns at attention. There are mountains coming towards me and I'm bleeding. There is always more to lose.


and I am my mother
and my father's father
and all the haunted canyons in between

Jessica Poli is the author of two chapbooks: Glassland (JMWW, forthcoming) and The Egg Mistress (Gold Line Press). She is Editor-in-Chief of Birdfeast and Salt Hill Journal, and is currently an MFA candidate at Syracuse University.

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