before I was possible
there was your charcoal body
hungry like an ember and knotted up
burnt matchstick legs
hairline catching fire, consuming
eyes, hottest part of the flame.

where there’s a will, there’s a way out.

plait hanging like a rat in your hand
brass polish got under your nails
pewter dirt worked its way out
of your skin, scrubbed clean
dried between your toes.
your books’ spines turned to ash.

Katherine Henderson

Ever And After

You left me breathless-
Stranded on some stormy bay
With rays of frosted moon
Biting at my heart:
A cool scoop of vanilla
Floating in wet sky,
My fingers blue,
Tethered to the bosom of the sea.

You left me coffin limp and lifeless,
Pallid as a white sheet on an
October shore.
Warned, but not heeded.

Natalie Crick

It Arrived

It arrived like a knife to cut away
the wound, perfect on the outside -
a miracle of unworn proportions.
At first it was high and bright,
a little less than magic but so much more
than simple bread. Soft, sweet, somewhat
urgent - it pulled you from isolation, helping you
release the deep betrayal that fused to your insides.
Now like summer, its happy season has passed,
and the dull breath of neither-here-nor-there
has arrived. He never calls, never needs
just to hear your voice.
You are unsure if you even like his smile, his style
of polite irritation and control.
Ear to the ground, settling with lack
until you make a decision -
one last effort to receive the miracle in full,
hold hands with someone where love is mutual,
something of passion
to count on.

Allison Grayhurst

The Move

In the early days, she hauled
a mattress to the ocean view
windows to sit and cry.
Who can know the origin

of sadness? I recall
only her sorrow, not its source.
In time, she adapted to a northern life,
to its rhythms of sea, storm and gale.

Her yard bonfired
summer flame. Her smooth hands
packed soil around roots of annuals
in hanging moss baskets: jewel-

toned lobelia, pansies, begonias,
geraniums; firmed soil around root-
balled azaleas, rhododendrons, apple
trees. Her long bangs caught, swept

into the anchor of a barrette,
she eyed Snow on the Mountain
in the rockery, thinned their tangle
to yield bloom. She paused to swipe

the back of her gloved hand across
her brow, maybe to catch a loosened
lock, to scratch a bite from a no-see-um.
Mom green-touched her space,

tamped my childhood with wild earth
and cultivated ground. Flourishing
fruit trees, berries, abundant bloom,
this shore I call home.

Kersten Christianson

the root of it

I split a banana in two
to find a crust
or something malformed.

I peel back my sheets,
lift the trunk of my bed to forage
for some pellet on my mattress sheet.

I’m looking for something that’s
been niggling me - feels like a dry flannel poking
my ear first thing in the morning

or at night
like a crisp’s under my back,
borrowing my warmth.

I am sure there is something

so I claw at the curtains, pull them
till they’re just unthreaded string

and I unfold myself in front of a mirror
to see if something’s stuck somewhere

I sift my hair and double swish with mouthwash
and double spit - or maybe something’s tacked on my wall?

There is something I go to sleep with,
something I wake up with that makes me feel
like a mirage of myself.

I have its outstretched hand but I simply
cannot find its root.

Louise Essex