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Devon Balwit


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(for A.H.)

How sticky he is, stare-button eyes, crocheted cock. Cock and bull, they say, but I still feel him in me. The others, too, are there, snared, too small to do anything but cling, our mother dead. And the apple tree, slink-snaked, doves wise to secrets, but flying over. I’ve my own hook now, threat, threaded. Then, I had nothing but tooth and nail, easily overmastered. Call it lie, but I’ve woven it plain, the twist of it. Some families are like that, never picked, never to be unpicked.

From the Trenches

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The cold sings to us over the throb of our wounds, a melody difficult to resist. It slips its hands beneath our clothes and caresses. We can feel ourselves harden although we wish it were otherwise. Even our tears freeze, stalactites of grief. Our last letters crinkle against us as we writhe, whispering, as at our funeral. We want to scratch some mark into the stones beneath our cheek, our final resting place, but we have nothing but our nails, fungal and soft. We only bleed. Already, the hungry ground swallows us up. We shout mother, mother in a vast fugue, voices all around. This is the best we can do, this composition of gore.


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Arching backwards, I wait for my partner, wind, to catch me beneath arms and swirl me, a compass needle. Ribbed, winged, hollow, I travel a great distance, my skull flaring flame. Aroused, I bleed, but painterly, in filaments. Embraced by negative space, neither male nor female, I answer need, entering and being entered. Over the throb at my throat, a single white feather pulses.


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The interred claw themselves from dirt. Exotics curl comatose or reach through the bars of small cages, limbs straining. Clumsy from shock, the exsanguinating scoop blood into the sieve of their bodies two-handed. Tears streak a child’s cheek dust. An earless dog cowers. A cat’s neck seeps in a too-tight collar. The blood-spatter of family wrings a man before plumed smoke. Dazed, the living hold up their pain. I dash from one to the next, stunned by need, while more mound, hourglass ever-spilling.

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