Entanglement

He is the quince and she is the sparrow trapped in his snarl, his heart of thorns, jangled twigs. No easy way out. Or rather, she is the quince and he is the sparrow craving the nectar of her locked blossoms, crimson on the bud. Egress? There’s always flight. The sky is where he left…

After the Party Pantoum

Working that walk so hard it hurts, it hurts, walking home in someone else’s high heels. You were who you were before you came here— a small animal, wandering, a drink in your hand. It hurts, walking home in someone else’s high heels so leave them by the road, a small monument to failure, leave…

Some Kind of Sonnet

Sunday morning cast wide your nets. Nimble fingers tickle down a harvest of therapists for adolescents, depressed yet still trotting out to-do lists. Our listless rider of the emotional waterbed. We are worried. She, a starfish, prone, pricks our attempts at soothing tones and I want to throw my body at those rocks like I’m…

Nurselog Sprig

No one would call you shallow, your roots pincers in the bitter-scratch earth of your making— burrow-tip grips like rock-climbers ascending the face of their ancestors’ decomposed past. Who else but a parent would give up his hold on mortal ground to lie prostrate, yielding in slow disintegration? Wood rust and tang of uptake, your…

Gymnosperm

Evergreen upsides from naked seed. Even you, my little sapling, formed from a kernel that swarmed to find home in a wet and unprotected womb. Split seed, sweetlip hoist and tremble. Every tree fumbling in the shadow of parent stretches to claim its stake of the light. Jill McCabe Johnson is the author of two…

Insomnia’s Lunatic

A full moon on patio stones, and illness flourishes. Three a.m. Sleeplessness peaks, and illness flourishes. In not dreaming a kind of wonder, in the sore throat, the lack of tonsils, to hack all day, all night—an illness flourishes. Who is not rapt, who uneasy, captive on a mattress. Trolling spindles while in her head…

Twinned

This morning, this evening—all twilight— the pinks, grays, amorphous twilights merged by hers and hers, both bright and newly minted, clouds of twilight hovering in rooms after days of heat. If it hums—the fridge, the fan—still twilight falls earlier in increments. Here the height of summer becomes a gauge. Age comes sleight of hand, preoccupied…

Lost Twin

A block from the hospital, I see him on the street: the other twin. No mistaking. Once you see a young man die, the shape of that blood stains you. I knew he had a brother although this other half was absent near the end. Guilty desire to thrive. Who would not choose his own…

The Nine of Cups

She called it The Wish Card, my psychic grandmother hoping over and over for love although she worried most about money. She took potions for sleep, a mind that would not settle. Ghosts plagued her daily, hiding the coveted card with its brimming chalices. Symbol of more than plenty. She told in alleys and back…

The Pass Over

A flock of sunlit swans flies down our winter river. The new snow spread like a clean tablecloth— so cold the ice-flecked air glitters. An arresting rarity in this valley they unzip the day and divide silence from the need for silence. Arguing over whose turn it was to take him to his next treatment,…

Only at Night

Tonight the sky is clear and the stars spill their light like frothy buckets of milk hurrying home. All the farmhouses are asleep— only lamps and barnyards keep reading. The fields, blankets dimly aglow. With their spread tails, free-falling snipe call to each other until the air is as filled with their mellow yearning as…

For Grace Jones (And all those who model themselves after)

She never knew what color to dip her fingertips. Most days she felt magenta’d under belly and indigo’d soles, eyes fast lit chartreuse and teal lip. Unlike a rainbow, mostly electric. Imani Sims is a spicy Chai tea–loving Seattle native who spun her first performance poem at the age of fourteen. She believes in the healing power of words…