is a poet and educator from the American West. She spent most of her childhood in Montana as a second-generation member of a religious cult preparing for impending nuclear disaster. She has worked in the food service and childcare industries while freelancing as an editor and copywriter. She currently teaches high school and lives with her partner and their blended family of six children in Largo, Florida. Previous publications include The Examined Life, Just Words Fallacy, and Flash Fiction, and work is forthcoming in The Account and Swamp Ape Review.
Syllabic as a jab, patterned on slut or fuck or fat or cunt,
clicks from the uvula, rounds up the throat to flick
the palate before exploding out the teeth.
We know it by the kick in belly: stomach-rolling,
rapids splashing toward my ears, cheek-slap,
spitball, trip-in-the-hallway word, word that balls
in your throat, makes you salivate, spit white foam
on our purple shirts, joyride past the commune
shotguns blazing, light up an empty school bus,
ignite a cross in someone’s yard, burn a compound
to the ground with children still inside.
They said it was consecrated
by El Morya–
vats and vats of boiled kale.
No matter that it grew
on our farm, tended with
compost tea that oozed
from rotten vegetables,
or that a devotee
picked off cabbage worms
by hand: I refused.
I would scoop the starchy greens
under my napkin for plate check.
When they started checking napkins
I held them wet
and pitched them, underhand,
to land at someone else’s feet.
Later, at home, I stowed the greens
behind the cedar chest.
In that place of chanted prayers
I learned to mouth Violet Flame,
fold blank papers for confession,
bring food to my mouth,
move my jaw, eat
without swallowing what I was fed.
Where we caught minnows
with our hands in the shallows,
walked dirt paths by gravel roads,
whose steep banks slipped and rolled
past the abandoned Plunge where we lurked
in the deep end smoking stolen cigarettes;
river that swelled iron and rust in spring,
surface-calmed and sated,
then shrank and foamed over boulders,
where we learned fly fishing in summer;
river that yellowed beneath fall trees
but never froze over, all stainless steel
narrowed with ice;
boiling river, magma-heated,
where tourists also walked
barefoot over sharp rocks
to soak in steaming currents,
where elk and moose drank,
where vans with strange license plates
stopped traffic to snap photos,
river that took
rafts and paddles,
river that stole children:
you move too fast to reflect.
You exist without this poem,
without the tourists or cameras
or minnow-catching hands.
Our gaze cannot hold you,
river of yellow sandstone.
Last Days at the Royal Teton Ranch
The Rancher grabbed the hem of my skirt as I was leaving. It was a corduroy skirt, beige, with a ripped pocket I pushed my hand through to hold myself when I had to pee. I tried to stop him, but he already had hold of a thread. He showed me how pink and shiny I was, held together by gleaming cords. I pulled away but this only made me unravel faster, dragging my threads through the soft golden dust. “I’m leaving,” I told him. “Even if I end up nothing.” When he saw that I meant it, he grabbed the bright needle from his neck, pulled threads from the swale. He whipstitched Indian ricegrass to my small intestine, basted my ligaments with spruce and silver sagebrush. He sewed cottonwood, aspen and lodgepole pine to my kidneys. He speared me with wind, wove it into my muscle fibers, stabbed me with field mint. In the purple pouch of my heart he lay a river rock, stitching it closed with hardstem bulrush, fringed with blue thread from the sky. Then he raveled me, bronze with prairie dust, and let me go. And as I left, he laughed like the river.