Poetry Issue #63

Few Exceptions

Unaccustomed to my vacant life, I come slowly
as if treading on birds. We are imperfect
instruments—I make up my mind
to read Ulysses out of spite, again,
and pay to spend time in a greenhouse,
Under its ribs, which push
into the sky,
the mist falls across my face, hissing.
The fronds of an overgrown cabbage
cup my head from above,
as though blessing me. I type
worst dildo??? with an image
of a tumescent cactus. We are imperfect
of one another’s desire. At the pond
a child
stands beside me. We gaze at the small koi
and the stupidness of their moving
protruding eyes. The child says
to his vacant mother,
living out her own unexpectedly
vacant life,
je voudrais une grande feuille,
which to me, so recently
is all the more profound
because French is the language
of unapologetic aristocracy, condescension,
and my immense personal laziness. I am a sprinter,
intellectually speaking, and language
acquisition requires
a commitment to the throughline.
Somewhere in the fracturing past,
my father takes me to the pet store
in the woods. There are few exceptions
to what can be found in the woods
near the ocean, or by
the airport in my hometown. The pet store has miniature
If you are reading this, you are a person,
who was once a child
so you can imagine
my delight.
A foal is born, the hair of its forehead grows
in the yellow spiral of a sun. When my rabbits die
my father gets fish and we return
often to the pet store, at a loss
of what else to do with one another.
We spontaneously choose a beautiful fish.
It is a fighting fish
and it takes chunks out of the guppies
and ingests
their tiny, accidental babies.
It is around this time that my memory
It is possible that we allow the fighting fish
to continue to consume
its compatriots, drifting alone
through the emptying water
until long after
my father’s death. Equally possible that we
exile him
and that the other fish
from quieter neglect.
Does the trajectory matter when the outcome
is the same.
What I recall with certainty
is that the fighting fish survives.
It lives
in my friend’s front room, where the sunlight
turns its tail fins
into a stained glass window.

The Millstones

The year of absolution
in a fractal
sequence, headlong
in the pool,
a cup of grapes
on the side table.
into the cradle of red
The childless
morning stretched taut,
made from silence, made
from the millstones, the taste
of hot steel.
I was kicking out the joints of the ladder,
I was starting small
fires, I was dancing
from the skin of the earth.

Genealogy of Dependence

The aftermath is unspeakable,
rainfall upon Vesuvius. This howl
of self-involvement seems as though it may never end.
Hallowed, hollowed, subverting the metanarrative,
I was told to abandon the self in a field without daisies
and to forget about the concept of innocence.
Alcoholics and hysterics:
a lineage that has enjoyed few wholesome entanglements
with the addiction industrial complex.
It’s the thrill of omniscience for me,
the god-trick of the inebriate,
unfolding into its arms,
the smell of it
leaving my body with hostages.
Upon request,

I can become a storm,
an eagle with its wings clipped,
spiritually indigent.

Star 1973, Archived

To be hebetic,
is to be the site of occupation
and to welcome the appetite of carnivores.
Somehow the upper thigh
becomes the premise upon which
to base an entire {euphemism for rape}.
We may not care what happens
because beneath the floodlights,
our bodies are yet raw
and craving—
the enclosure of your fretting hand
around the conduit of our throats.
It is a kind of mourning for the self actually,
for fierceness, for sheets silted by tears.
It is
a history of silent women,
some of them are broken bones
in the quarry.

Exit through adulthood,
arrive at the abattoir.
I become a carrion bird.


I overlooked last winter’s final ebb,
          despite having barely weathered those sunless days
each year before, merciless,
          despite the practice.
In the cold, we split the splayed branches
           of the infant catalpa
beneath our cavorting, uncalloused feet.
            Rent midair, the scent roared
and hung across the gardens like a ghost.
             Now nothing will grow,
as if the ground has been salted.
            Six time zones east and the salt yet lingers in my hair,
an olfactory souvenir from the time
            we whipped flat stones across the ocean,
marking unremembered kisses on its surface,
            lovestruck by the undertow. I was happy to leave,

though tomatoes here are feeble on the tongue.
            There, the video store is still open
and outside the three-foot replica of Michelangelo’s David
             is still missing all his features.

By Kendra Mills

Kendra Mills lives in Washington DC and Massachusetts. She is a recipient of the Elisa Brickner Poetry Prize and her work can also be found in The Rialto, Moria Literary Magazine, and Oyster River Pages.