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Month: August 2014

Poetic Advice from a Mother to a Mother-to-Be: Reading Molly Sutton Kiefer’s Nestuary


Molly Sutton Kiefer_NestuaryThe past thirty-five weeks have not been easy. The actual progression of pregnancy, and the preparations needed for the child once she is born, should be viewed (in my opinion, at least) as two distinct acts that happen to be occurring at the same time. First, there are the physical and emotional demands of the pregnancy itself: the bodily changes, the exhaustion, and the things they don’t necessarily warn you about (such as the trialed attempts at becoming pregnant, prenatal depression and pregnancy gingivitis). Then, there’s the endless list of preparations: creating a nursery, baby-proofing the home, finding places for all of the new baby-things, and the absolute emotional severity of nesting. This is hardly an exhaustive list of these two “acts,” but I hope it can be assumed that a journey such as this one is difficult and requires support from many, many people, even when that means turning to writers for solace and advice—and I don’t just mean the editor of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. When I first came across Molly Sutton Kiefer’s Nestuary, and read from Arielle Greenberg’s review— “Nestuary is a compelling document of the alchemical nature of pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and becoming a mother. . .These ‘little needle songs’ of violence, love, illness and power are. . .sung urgently and out of order, as they should be”—I knew this was a must-read. This concept of pregnancy being perpetually “[urgent] and out of order”, as well as involving “violence, love, illness, and power”, screamed of truth to me, and I was confident that, in reading Kiefer’s lyric essay, I might find community.

After reading Nestuary, I can tell you, this expectation was beyond-true.

Molly Sutton Kiefer’s lyric essay, Nestuary, is divided into three distinct sections: the first, attempting to become pregnant; the second, discovering one is pregnant and going through the pregnancy and birth; and the third, reflecting on the birth, the early years of child-rearing and becoming pregnant again. There are certainly overlaps between these sections, as well as acts of hindsight, as Greenberg suggested, though this is the relative arch of the piece, taking us through the attempt, the pregnancy, and the motherhood. I found myself becoming more and more emotionally-twined into this piece, as so many of the occurrences related to my own: the difficulties involved in becoming pregnant in the first place, and then many of the hardships that can occur (physically and emotionally) throughout the arch of the pregnancy, as well as even (out of anticipation) how some of her mothering experiences either calm or fuel my own anxieties and excitement at finally holding and raising my child.

However, even for women who have a very different pregnancy from Kiefer, or view breastfeeding and motherhood differently, there is still plenty of room for relating to her experiences and opinions, as the larger themes of the essay relate to the beauty and hardships involved in any pregnancy, the launching into the unknown of the childbirth and beginnings of motherhood. These are concepts that, no matter how difficult or easy-going the pregnancy or the act of becoming pregnant may be, every mother will face: questions and expectations of her role as mother, questions about the baby; the list goes on. This significant shift in societal and domestic role as mother is, without a doubt, glaring in Kiefer’s essay, as we all have to make a quick and full transition during the course of our pregnancy and, suddenly, at the arrival of our children.

In a matter of ninety-seven pages, Kiefer takes us through her harrowing journey of pregnancy attempts and going through pregnancy, as well as the after-life of raising a child and bearing another. Its language waxes poetic for much of the piece (which I love and feel should be freely pursued in the context of this form); but it also functions beautifully as a lyric essay, as it contains, both, a personal narrative and research of some of the older myths surrounding pregnancy and birth. Revealing and lovely, hopeful and brutally-honest, Nestuary becomes a story and an informant for any to-be mother as it unravels socially-accepted beliefs (new and old) and presents a very-personal, very-individualistic story of one woman’s journey through pregnancy and the early years of child-rearing. The further I waded into the complexities of this tale, of the myths, of the specifics, the more I knew that I needed to keep reading, that I had found a common-ground with another writer, and that, all-in-all, these fears and perceived short-comings throughout my own pregnancy were okay. They were normal, and could be learned from, and will be grown from. Reading a parenting guide or a series of articles online about the importance of raising a child this way, or the educational implications of that, will not tell you so much about the hard stuff, or the truth behind all of the “beauty” of pregnancy and motherhood, or the emotional hardships of all of these changes. As a new mother, you’re expected to simply know these things, to move forward gracefully; and there are unwritten social implications for those women who struggle to do so. An essay like Nestuary teaches you, informs you, and comforts you that this simply isn’t the case, that this isn’t easy, and that you won’t be perfect—and that’s okay. After thirty-five weeks, I needed to hear that. Before my daughter is born, I need to hear that. And while I am raising her, and learning the ropes, I’ll need to remember that. Molly Sutton Kiefer created a safe environment for a new, excited, and worried mother like me, laying all the truths out for me to see, rather than covering them up in baby powder and make-up and beautiful after-birth photographs hung throughout a house. She offered that community I needed, and I expect, between this essay and her continued endeavors, that she’ll be providing this same service to many women, and that I’ll continue to recommend her work. From one writer to another.


MOLLY SUTTON KIEFER is the author of the poetry chapbooks, City of Bears (dancing girl press, 2013) and The Recent History of Middle Sand Lake (Astounding Beauty Ruffian Press, 2010). She is poetry editor for Midway Journal and runs Balancing the Tide: Motherhood and the Arts | An Interview Project. She lives in Minnesota with her family. You can see more about Nestuary here.




False Memory


We’re too damaged to go back now, left a little too far

open, lost moons, the open box-cutters

with a blade that shines like glass

against your hair, your eyes, the feeling of blade

to skin. Watching you, this is how a river feels—

too cool, too fast, a stampede of horses. We can only

stand by and watch them wade in, knee-deep, and then

chest-buried, before the current takes them. The last thing we see

are the flickers of white in their eyes, a flash

of their teeth. Of course, none of this really happens, but

you feel it anyway. You grieve for them

and want to go out to adopt a colt. You want to go out

and plant something green. You want to apply

moisturizer to the memory of cuts, as if there ever

really had been any. Sometimes, you wish

there had been, so you could feel something else, feel

something a little out-of-control, a little bloody.

You close your eyes and see ribbons of skin, spinning

like ribbon dancers, in every direction, a hall of mirrors.

This may be as real to you as death will ever be, and so

you take it all in, opening every window, hearing

every crash from the city.




The Phobia, the Philia, and the Altered Persona: Reading Jessica Piazza’s Interrobang


Jessica Piazza_InterrobangClick here to view my follow-up interview with Jessica Piazza!

Jessica Piazza’s debut full-length poetry collection, Interrobang, is all at once lovely, inquisitive and complex. I found myself startled by the constant alteration of the persona; the interjection of the phobia and the philia as a backdrop for the persona’s transformation; and Piazza’s mastery of the sonnet form, employed in most of these poems. It was a pleasant deviation by way of theme and form.

Before fully launching into my review of Interrobang, I’d like to share one of my favorite poems from the collection, “The Prolific,” which I will then return to throughout my discussion of the collection.




The red, the blue, the streak of orange stripe—
they’re everywhere; so, too, are sound and scent
and still, if all were still the air would pipe
its tactile breath nonstop like bakeries’ bent
street fans wafting out exhaust of bread at us
each morning, as we passed on 23rd.
He’d tell me less is more. I’d say: I’ve heard.
But I’d want more; felt there was more of less
for me those days than more of more. The swirl
of world went on, but at the center of
this narcissistic universe: one girl,
dead-stopped. Red cup. Blue shirt. I moved
my hand through orange streaks of hair—a shift
in space that couldn’t rift. My eye bereft.

In space that cannot rift, the eye’s bereft
of stimuli. A boy was here, but left
an empty seat. I can’t just stare at space
that once was filled and not perceive the trace
of stirring lingering. That boy. We walked
down 23rd a lot, and talked, and smoked
and looked at all there was to see, the more
of street urbanity. We walked the floor
of gum coating the ground, built toss by toss;
the buildings that had sacrificed their gloss
to sheets of smog. It calmed me: a world built
of what’s beneath it, never done, the silt
foot-pounded down by countless hurried feet.
He couldn’t love it. It was not complete.

He couldn’t love me—I was not complete
the way his wishful eye completed me,
subtracting toward an ideal sum. I’d see
myself lost part by part: white neck, large feet,
wild hair—erased—a disappearing hand
pressed lightly to transparent collarbones.
He wished for tides, forgot they caused sea stones
to wane and yield. But glass worn down to sand,
if not beautiful, is also not
as delicate. I couldn’t disappear
beneath his blink. Instead I found the spot
on 23rd where, when the sun struck clear
glass buildings, streets appeared to multiply.
Then a thousand of me walked away.

A thousand other men could walk away
from me a thousand times, and yet I’d pay
them hardly any mind. The only one
who matters is the one I left. He’s gone
the way a flash of bright light goes: still there
in afterimages, a shadow where
a statue stood. But 23rd Street’s full
of immigrants who see this way: the pull
of memory placing a tree where raised
wires ought to be; a river where the paved
roads actually run. And if they can erase
a city with nostalgia’s sight—replace
the truth with things they loved—I wonder what
my own imperfect eye could substitute.

My own imperfect eye is destitute
when faced with all there is to see. He’d said:
just close them, then. I said: I can’t—minute
details I missed would haunt me when I did.
But now I do. I walk down 23rd
Street blind, a movie played on loop
beneath my lids. A vast, prolific world
swells all around me, kaleidoscope
of sound and scent redoubling, but I
know nothing of it, only see in flash-
backs. Empty seat. Raised cup, a grip belied
by see-through hands. Unfinished buildings slashed
by vivid streaks of sun; a city wiped
too clean of reds, of blues, of orange stripes.


This poem is stunning, in the way so many of Piazza’s poems are stunning—they are imagistic, rhythmic, and (perhaps most importantly) internally aware of the changes that inhabit their space, and that inhabit the larger arch of the collection. Because of this, there is an implied conversation that occurs between these poems, drawing attention to the discrepancies that are projected onto the persona or the situation that surrounds her. These discrepancies have very little to do with unreliability or lack of attention to detail; rather, they reflect the impermanence of our humanly situations, as well as the potential falseness of our memories. Much of this collection operates around the complex concept of transformation, which opens doors to, both, longing and our own limitations.

Piazza’s poems are complex and require great and consistent effort to gain access. For instance, the first five lines of this poem operated strictly as a series of images for me—until I reached the sixth line, “each morning, as we passed on 23rd.” The simplicity of this detail, placing the persona and this male other on 23rd Street, recast that previous series of images as memories of landmarks along that stretch. This sort of shift in access to images and information is a constant, both in this poem and many others; it represents an opening up that occurs between the persona and the reader, particularly in a poem such as this one, when the final line of one sonnet is revised as the first line in the next, displaying some new truth to the story developed across the “Profilic” series.

What became the most daring and the most telling to me, however, were the lines:

                   . . . And if they can erase
a city with nostalgia’s sight—replace
the truth with things they loved—I wonder what
my own imperfect eye could substitute.

This final sentiment in the second-to-last sonnet—“I wonder what / my own imperfect eye could substitute”—seems to function as the central question in this poem, regarding the impermanence of our surroundings, the unreliability of memory, and even the concept of substitution, which may or may not work in our favor. When looking at all of these concepts, it can all be pared down to memory. What’s fascinating about memory as the central concept, here, is how the memory transforms how we view the world, and our relationship to it, and how it is always evolving:

                   . . . We walked the floor
of gum coating the ground, built toss by toss;
                   . . . It calmed me: a world built
of what’s beneath it, never done, the silt
foot-pounded down by countless hurried feet.

Though these lines are in reference to the Street itself, it also suggests something greater about memory: how our memory is hardly one large map of instances, but rather is a complex layering of references, reminders and transformed understanding. This idea relates to the larger connection, as well, and the instances in which one image transfigures into another—“a tree where raised / wires ought to be”—or is transposed onto another—“still there / in afterimages, a shadow where / a statue stood.” Both of these possibilities (though one relates specifically to the falseness of memory and the other to the afterimage, or transposing, of memory) further emphasize the impermanence of our surroundings and the longevity of memory, however untrue or changing.

Perhaps this suggests something about longing, as well. Often, in these poems, I find the use of memory and the transformation of an image, to relate specifically to a wanting back in, looking for a door that will allow us back into a shared space with a person or object, in the hope that they are the same as we left them. In the second-to-last sonnet, the persona reflects on the absence of one particular man over all others, and these reflections are recast into a meditational longing for what once was there, in the same place and in the same condition. This is a desire I believe we all experience at one time or another—a longing to return to something, or to have that something returned to us, in the here-and-now, somehow unchanged and lacking the memory of ever having been absent. A longing for a lack of change, even. However, we are constantly reminded as readers of this impossibility, due to the constant-flux that occurs in the persona, in the landscape, and in other accompanying figures. We are challenged to understand the demands of change; when one thing changes, it changes everything else, however minimally; and there is no way to regain that object in an unchanged state while remaining in our present. We have to choose; we can’t have both.

Though I have focused primarily on “The Prolific,” these sentiments of change, memory and the inclusion of the phobia and philia run deep throughout this collection. I found myself challenged—threatened, even—by the shifts imposed upon the persona and the longing that is so inherent to these poems. This collection threw me back into my own depths, my own grief and fears, and left me cycling-in-place in a way very reflective of the persona: living in the present but longing for things of the past, somehow pairing them together in my mind and losing the realities of what used to be, creating instead an ideology. Perhaps that is why the role of Phobia and the Philia became so important, so remarkable, to me; they not only worked to categorize feelings around loss and longing, but they also represented the positive-negative complication of memory. Sometimes they even functioned as a direct opposition to what is expected—dreading the good memories of something lost, and thriving on the negative, giving us reason to lessen our affection for the lost. Sometimes that’s just how grief works.

Jessica Piazza’s Interrobang is a truly-stunning collection that is, at its deepest, heartfelt and frightening to the core, in the way it opens us up and searches through our most-secret parts, our memories, our emotions. It is an emotionally-challenging collection that is imagistic and rhythmic, and it is highly unforgettable. This is a collection I’ll be thinking about for quite some time, especially as I return to some of those old, harder memories and try to transform them into something new, a poem, a piece, somewhere. The longer I think about it, the more I feel this collection expects that from me, as it will expect from others.


JESSICA PIAZZA was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and now lives in Los Angeles, where she has completed a Ph.D. in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. Her chapbook, This is not a sky, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2014. You can view more about Interrobang here.




Mark Your Calendars! Playground, Ink: New to the Theatre & Playwriting Scene


In the two years I have lived in the Kalamazoo area, while attending Western Michigan University’s MFA program in Poetry, I have been impressed with the level of involvement that is available in the arts—from poetry and fiction readings, to playwriting productions, to plays, to community events, and more.

That being said, there is always room for improvement! Second and third year Playwriting MFA candidates, Jeremy Llorence and Cara Beth Heath, worked diligently this past academic year to establish a greater connection between WMU’s English Department and WMU’s Theatre Department, to offer playwriting students more chances to see their work put on its feet, and to offer acting students more opportunities to work directly with playwrights.

The result of all their hard work is Playground, Ink, a student organization of playwrights, actors, directors, and other theatre artists, established at WMU. Their goal is to produce several student playwrights’ work per month, including short plays and full-length readings. There will also be a final performance each year to showcase the work of those playwriting MFA and/or PhD candidates who are graduating.

The first show will take place in the upcoming two weeks, featuring original ten-minute plays by Cara Beth Heath and Jeremy Llorence, at the following times:

Thursday, 8/28/14, at 11:00pm
Saturday, 8/30/14, at 2:00pm
Thursday, 9/04/14, at 11:00pm
Saturday, 9/06/14, at 2:00pm

These shows will take place in the amphitheater by Dunbar Hall on Western Michigan University’s campus, and the event is FREE and open to the public.

Please come out and show your love, appreciation and support of the theatrical arts. Bring some friends or family members or your significant other! Playground, Ink, is looking to create the largest events possible; and that means great writing, a well-developed production, and a large audience. Looking forward to seeing you there!

STAY TUNED: Once I’ve attended, I will have a follow-up post about this opening event, as well as more information about how you can become more involved in this new organization!!




Anticipating Her Arrival


I have asked my husband, What do you think she will look like? He frowns, and I know there is no answer. Not right now. All I know is beauty: crows bursting from a field, a candle flame, a gust of wind after rainfall. These things are beautiful, imprinted somewhere in her face, her hands. Somehow, I know they will be, like the stars.


August 2014_Poem 21_Anticipating Her Arrival


August 21, 2014, MLT




Due Date


The act is violent, the tearing open, the skin. I imagine bird claws, the talons, a wind breaking open between two buildings. The mouth, agape. And the arrival. Two shadows.


August 2014_Poem 20_Due Date


August 20, 2014, MLT




I Am Running Out of Poems.


And then I look to the fall trees, and I wonder if they ever think, “I am running out of leaves.” They probably do, they with their tall, scarred bodies, launching outward and up. Sometimes, they are probably dreaming, or worse, waking. They open their eyes to colored leaves, the green having fallen out, and they know it is only a matter of time. Their leaves fall, they are stepped on, they are lost on the river, and then that’s it. Dormancy and sleep, a winter cage. I can write during any month.


August 2014, Poem 19, I Am Running Out of Poems


August 19, 2014, MLT




Searching Tide Pools for Shore Crabs


Crab is such an ugly word—the hard k, its suddenness. I’m steeped in these small pools, or perched on the surrounding rocks and sand, one hole after the next, searching for shore crabs, carcinus maenas. I find their gray and tan bodies, slick with the tide, their sideways catapult from rock slide to water. For the few I pick up and return, they seem harmless, but I’ve seen what they can do. They hunt in packs. Whatever unsuspecting thing is there, it will be buried beneath the collection of pinchers and bodies, the sheer weight of them. The act is louder and longer than you would expect. We’ve come so far from home.


August 2014_Poem 18_Searching Tide Pools for Shore Crabs


August 18, 2014, MLT




Garden Stems


I go out into the world, looking for strawberries like the ones from my mother’s garden. They were small and firm, sweet but bitter, dirt caught in the leaves and deeper pits. We plucked them fresh from their stems and ate them before cleaning them, the dirt and seeds caught in-between our teeth. Now I search farms and locals, grocery stores, and the fruits in cartons are bruised and old. I clean them, and when I bite into them, memories of home are distorted. The fields are green instead of corn. Our driveway is lined in flowers instead of trees. The dog house and chicken coop are missing or transformed, depending on the ripeness of the fruit. This is what trying to return home tastes like; bitter, without salt.


August 2014_Poem 17_Garden Stems


August 17, 2014, MLT




“The Snapping Open of a Valve / A Bird’s Egg”: Reading Kerrin McCadden’s Landscape with Plywood Silhouettes


Kerrin McCadden_Landscape with Plywood SilhouettesNo matter how long I’ve been reading and writing professionally, it still amazes me how much a little time away can contribute to my appreciation of a larger work. During my first year as the Layout and Design Editor at New Issues Poetry and Prose, I had the extreme benefit of working with Kerrin McCadden, upon her winning of the 2013 New Issues’ Poetry Prize for her first full-length collection, Landscape with Plywood Silhouettes. In subsequent months, I would focus on content, proofreading and the physical layout of her poems on the page. This is a job I tremendously enjoy; but I have found that I have to turn off that other side of my brain in order to adequately complete these tasks—that part which is interested in image, line, and syntax, in the overall arch of the collection and the persona established throughout. While a certain amount of attention must still be given to these attributes, in order to ensure a thorough, comprehensive proofreading, they have to otherwise be set aside to focus more so on the fine-tuning that occurs in this great world of bookmaking.

Kerrin McCadden’s Landscape with Plywood Silhouettes officially arrived on the literary scene in March 2014. Over the next several months, I was then able to focus on other pursuits—my writing of poems, writing book reviews, and working on other layout and design projects—and take my more-analytical attention away from McCadden’s work. Now, late in the summer when I’ve had a little time to sit back and let the literary areas of my mind take a rest, I’ve returned to McCadden’s collection simply for the joy of it, and I am beyond-astonished with what I have found.

McCadden’s poems are, in a word, breathtaking. They live somewhere between the world of the lyric and the narrative, providing us a foundation to establish a story, but otherwise leaving us suspended in that place where our imaginations and interpretations take over. They are relatable, descriptive, in that way that many good poems are, but they also provide the breathing room we need to invite our own memories. These poems are the persona’s stories, but they can also be our stories. Much of what makes these poems so relatable are the themes established, but also McCadden’s use of image and metaphor.

These poems largely focus on family and love, longing and grief, and coping. Though these concepts may seem to be commonly placed together, it is the way in which McCadden complicates these ideas, and juxtaposes them against one another, again and again, that makes them so interesting, real, and alive.

For instance, Family, as an umbrella term for motherhood and marriage, is fractured and confusing in a way that is so familiar to many of us. In her poems, “Bedtime” and “Little Ghost Girl,” there is a sense of creating value and prioritizing between children; this, in and of itself, can be a startling concept—the playing of favorites to the extreme of reading to and feeding one child, and forgetting the other. But if we then turn to McCadden’s poem, “Ballooning,” we are overwhelmed with the sense of maternal instinct and protectiveness, longing for connection and safety, which may complicate our reading of “Little Ghost Girl.” In a similar vein, we are not presented with the stereotypical emotions of loss and grieving commonly found in poems that mention, or focus on, divorce; rather, we are presented with a severe complication of a longing for the memories of the time before, as well as for something new. This idea, while fresh and inviting on its own, is further supported by the portrayal of love in these poems—and better yet, the strangeness of it, such as its portrayal in “Skeletons,” when the depiction of love is both bodily and surreal, perhaps even awkward and somewhat startling or creepy. In this way, each of these concepts that are stereotypically so desirable are driven with a sense of wonder and abjection, suggesting that they are not as clean and beautiful and ideal as they seem. This final idea intertwines itself beautifully with the grief and coping processes found in some of these poems, giving us the sense as readers that these processes are nothing if not normal, and that they, too, are not clean or straight-forward, that one individual—the persona, perhaps—may find solace or beauty in something that otherwise terrifies us, and perhaps where we find comfort would disturb her just as much.

As if these concepts and their unique portrayals were not enough, McCadden further astounds through her use of redefinition, metaphor and image. What I find so startling and beautiful about the use of redefinition is the sense of possibility that is inherent to its use. By including this particular tactic, the poet is able to redefine a moment, an emotion, or an image, again and again, through a series of word revisions or images that, all at once, change our perception of what the poet is trying to get across, while still maintaining our memory of that earlier version. It is a metapoetic method of revision—maintaining what could have been erased, or revised out, as a part of the learning process, the grieving process, and the inherent epiphany, available to this persona. One of my favorite examples of redefinition across these works occurs at the end of the poem, “The Death of the Reader”:

This is the heartache I am after. Not the one
after the marriage, the long marriage, the forty
open acres of marriage, the fifty page ending.
Just the snapping open of a valve, the chamber
squeezing like a fist, my heart breaking like
a bird’s egg, untended, desiccated, sparkling
in the evening light, so beautiful, so light
and diaphanous it almost doesn’t fall.

In this moment, we are presented with what we might expect the source of heartache to be, but are then challenged with a more bodily, and then lyrical, rendition of this persona’s grieving—the moving from “the snapping open of a valve” to “a bird’s egg, untended [and] desiccated”. Then, it suspends us in the end with a strange combination of hope and dread that maybe, just maybe, this teetering thing will hold fast, will not fall, will remain intact.

This is what I feel McCadden does so well. While she uses redefinition as a means to reach a deeper, raw truth, much of this redefinition is established through her beautiful use of metaphor and image. In the short passage I shared above alone, we are presented with the, both, real and conceptual idea of heartache, followed by the raw snapping open of a valve and the fragility of a bird’s egg, all covered in soft evening light and the imposition of falling. This complication of rawness and fragility, beauty and dread, are juxtapositions we are so familiar with in our moments of struggle and bittersweetness. This is what makes McCadden’s poems so perfectly relatable, and open, leaving us in these strange, in-between places that both harm and calm, that remind us of the beautiful, simple things and “the lonely thing[s],” and humble us with the knowledge that we are “just a series of pauses, waiting,” even “careening [impossibilities],” never quite knowing what we have, or what we will miss, or what will leave us. These larger themes keep us up at night, so often, and in projecting them onto us through a universal you, and in constantly deepening our understanding of our own grief and the persona’s, we are left in this place of understanding and community, while all at once knowing that nothing is entirely guaranteed.

Kerrin McCadden’s debut collection, Landscape with Plywood Silhouettes, is haunting and truthful, honest and trustworthy, with beautifully-repetitious images of birds and flight, a constant going-away, and close-ups of ghost girls, gorillas, and heart valves, that challenge our understanding of grieving and happiness. In a sentence, it is not a collection you should miss.


KERRIN McCADDEN is the author of Landscape with Plywood Silhouettes, winner of the 2013 New Issues Poetry Prize, judged by David St. John. A 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Poetry, she was also awarded a 2013 Sustainable Arts Foundation Writing Award, as well as support from The Vermont Arts Endowment Fund and The Vermont Studio Center. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, American Poetry Review, Rattle, Green Mountains Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Poet Lore, Failbetter, Hunger Mountain and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.




Untitled; An Accordion


Yesterday, I spent the day sleeping away my life. It was peaceful, the blankets all clustered near the back porch door, and all the doors and windows on the first floor were left wide open. The sounds of wind and wind chimes, birds calling, the scent of trees, came and went. All that was locked was the front door, as if that could keep someone from entering, as if that could keep my sleeping form from leaving, the groggy and misshapen state it would take, a black frame, a silhouette, against the sky and all that green. Most of the flowers my mother planted have lost their petals but continue in their strong green bodies, the wide leaves still calling for water. I feed them when I can, when the watering can is not too much for the smaller form inside me to carry, her kicking somehow always saying stay inside, do not move, do not lift anything, sleep. And so I do, and the summer is passing.




August 16, 2014, MLT




Collecting Horses


I want to get back into drawing, the pencil in my hand, the thick charcoal under my nails. I keep collecting spare pieces of paper, of cardboard, in the hope that something might happen. A horse, gray and white shadows, it appears—the long mane draped over one shoulder like a flag, the exposed eye and eyelashes that are so difficult to render. I imagine, over and over, applying the pencil to the page, and know my husband will not care, will not see the years it took to come back here, will not see the hours that went into providing this horse with the lungs and teeth it needs to survive within a frame. When she is complete, when she is living, he may find a frame for her, hang her on the wall, but he will not see her. She’ll remain decapitated, or large, or hoof-less, without a barn, depending on how I render her. The life of an artist living in a household, the muck caught in each of the hooves.


August 2014_Poem 15_Collecting Horses


August 15, 2014, MLT