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By Alexis McDonald


she becomes the author of her solitude 

able to ruminate          among a broken glance 

writing whimpering sonnets that amuse              the neighboring wilted flowers in awe 


whose ages rival that of her delicate home 

which sways with the breeze of rustling autumn        and catches a cold with winter’s white chill 

to arise from sprinklings of pollen and rainwater 


altruism seeping through the growing holes 

alimony through the asylum of her        breaths 


cracks form at the apex of the pearl’s luster 

another knocking softly along its rear side 

prey hiding beneath a collapsing cover 

her muscles contracting with a heavy            sigh 


the alkaline soil drinks the nutrients from the bitter earth 

            parches                 her amorphous body 


that seeks to ornament the ears of the sea. 



dolosus rose 


i twist the gold ring around my 

little finger, given to me by my 

mother. an heirloom rose, soft 

metal that bends with my grip, 

sharing my movements and 

molding to my fingerprint. 


i can’t feel it slide along the skin of 

my pinkie: it numbs to the gesture. 

i touch it to my lips, caught beneath 

my teeth, and the same unfeeling 

meets my fingertips. the deadening 

creeps up the length of my hands, 

wrists, forearms. it spreads from my 

tongue, to my lips, nose, cheeks. 


but another family inheritance: 

a splitting pain that worsens when  

i lower my gaze in humility to some  

higher power, instilled through fear 

by my mother, that takes no pity on 

me. microscopic cracks form along 

my skull like lightning. white, hot 

flashes etch themselves as if a web 

of flames is woven atop my head. 


the blinding ache behind my eyes,  

in my temples, and around my ears  

settles also in my stomach - or  

rather unsettles it, hollows it, flips it  

into a painstaking nausea. 


i am heaved back into the old oak 

rocking chair, another gift from 

my mother, upholstered with 

sailboats swaying in bays my 

body, or balance, will never know. 


my arms lie limp on the sides of 

the glider, my eyes glancing wildly 

about the room, searching for a 

memory of a jerk of muscle, a 

strain of tissue, anything to give 

reason for the betrayal of my nerve 

endings. it is not the retention of 

such an event that surges from my 

brain, but that of one last gift from 

my mother. 


you will not bear your own children, 

she said, but wisdom will be born 

of you, as Athena from Zeus, and 

you will know, like me, she warned, 

a body that hardens you. 





roll me in between your thumbs 

and whistle softly to the wind 

all the charming silken words 

you tell me under unwashed sheets 

within the crème pages of little women 

amidst fragrant sandalwood 

and when you whisper beneath 

raindrops and sunshine spots 

to the birds that carry secrets in the breeze 

make sure the morning dew 

feeds the crabgrass at dawn 

as it scurries across the yard 

overwatered by my apologies 

and your thoughtfulness 



Two oranges by Robert Talbot 


I am sitting in art class in third grade 

across from Waleed 

while we learn about the color wheel 

he says his favorite color is orange 

and I realize that his short stature 

and dark hair                   and mine 

are the same as we stare at each other 

while our teacher uses Smartboard pens 

to draw connections between                     complementary colors 

how blue and orange are across from each other, too 


and I wonder if Waleed is orange and I am blue 

or if I am orange and why don’t I know it 

and what other complements we must have like 

does he pick out his clothes in the morning 

like I do at night 

does his brother make him play house and 

does he have to be dad 

like I have to be mom 

and is his favorite candy sour 

when mine is sweet 


we each get a blank color wheel 

when he goes for the red pencil 

I grab the yellow one 

we trade after we shade the wedges in 

back and forth 

he nods at me as we work 

and I wonder now instead 

if Waleed likes orange 

because it reminds him of 

the knafeh that his grandmother 

makes for his birthday 

like it reminds me of 

my grandmother’s pumpkin roll 

served only for mine 


death roll call  


she quests for the gargoyled recluse that lurks on the balcony’s edge 

dispelling secrets like rainwater from its gnarled snout and its dry lips 

consecrating each whisper and collecting them in its lungs for a storm 

gargling woes and wishes and wrongdoings around in a filthy throat and 

swishing to wash clean its teeth, spitting them at the first clap of thunder 

emptying the confidences of lovers and mothers and others into the street 

grinning as it cries “i love you, but i don’t like you” to a mother’s child 

becoming its prey, peering up at the crocodile echoing their worst fear 

she quests for the insatiable telltale to wrestle from it the gravest secret 


does the truth make us better for our virtues, or worse for our sins? 





framed innocence  


i stare at the photograph in her room – 

my mother sits upon her mother’s lap, 

gripping a doll in the same white dress; 

                 bright blue eyes 

                 round red cheeks 

                 pinched tight by the fingers of my 

                great             grand                 mother 


who wept, i can’t condone this. 

not this young, to her daughter, 

made a mother at sixteen. 

but as she coos over the baby’s            

chubby toes 

tiny hands, 

my mother locks her adoration                    

within a gold rose,                  

wrapping it around her                  

little pinkie; 

just how she would entrap me                 




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