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Poetry Winter 2020    fiction    all issues

Cover of Poetry Winter 20


French silk sample book

Paula Reed Nancarrow
Morning Coffee
& other poems

Jill Burkey
& other poems

Oak Morse
Boys Born out of Blues
& other poems

Beatrix Bondor
Engine Ode
& other poems

Monique Jonath
a mi sheberach
& other poems

Lisa Rachel Apple
& other poems

Gillian Freebody
The Human Condition
& other poems

Kirsten Hippe-Rychlik
and we are echoes
& other poems

Devon Bohm
& other poems

Jeddie Sophronius
I Rest My Mother Tongue
& other poems

John Delaney
Poem as Map
& other poems

Elizabeth Bayou-Grace
Fire in Paradise
& other poems

In Utero
& other poems

Michelle Lerner
Ode to Exhaustion
& other poems

William French
I Have Never Been
& other poems

Josiah Patterson Wheatley
Coeur de Fleurs
& other poems

Karo Ska
womb song
& other poems

Robyn Joy
& other poems

Han Raschka
Love Language
& other poems

Rebbekah Vega-Romero
The Memory in My Pinky
& other poems

Gilaine Fiezmont
Europe, too, Came from Somewhere Else
& other poems

Scott Ruescher
At the Childhood Home of Ozzy Osbourne
& other poems

Emily R. Daniel
Visitation Dreams
& other poems

Lindsay Gioffre
Toxicodendron Radicans [Sonnet 1]
& other poems

Writer's Site

Devon Bohm

Careful Cartography

The first time I died was in my mother’s belly.

They had to scrape me out of her

like they were emptying a cantaloupe

of all that was good to eat.


They found me still alive.

They found me screaming.

I splattered my father’s glasses with blood

and he fainted, pitched down hard

to that mess of linoleum

and whatever viscera came with me.


I didn’t mean to hurt them.

But I am not someone who was born knowing

words like dishonor

and no matter how many books I devour starving

I have always spit out that pith, those seeds.


I wanted to grow up to be a Cartographer,

but I ended up a writer.

My maps are harder to follow,

and heavier to read,

but they are still trying to lead us somewhere better.


Even before I was born, I had to command attention.

I won’t pretend to remember, remembrance

is too precious for that, but I can imagine.

I stopped my own heart.

I am the kind of person who will always find a language to suit her.

I have been me, the hollow place for the conversation,

all communications, to echo,

long before my tongue grew in.


I studied maps before I learned how to go anywhere.

It has never been about going somewhere.

All of you who crave exquisite, exotic adventure,

I have a secret to tell:

you’ll still be there, wherever you go.

This makes all places the same,

and if you’re happy, home.

I wasn’t born happy.

I was born as I am:

with the careful cartography in my veins aching for home.


I have kept dying the way I’ve kept reading:

like a plough whose furrows hope to dig deep enough to seed.

Herbs, flowers without thorns so the bees can make me honey,

can pollinate, so more can blossom, quicken, grow.

I am not dying just to get your interest,

I am dying because sometimes maps are not enough.


No matter how uncharted the voyage, I have made it this far:

alive and still screaming.

I will never mean to hurt you, but

I have places to be and I have to find a way to speak them.

It is the way I was born.



Dirt is so many             shades                    Give me: bole,

sepia, fallow, fawn, sienna                          burnt umber

tan, russet, redwood                taupe, buff, ochre, mahogany

I let them fold into me, digging             my hands in

little hand spades

                          I am not gardening, I am burying

I want to make the world grow             but I haven’t

             been granted that power

I let the earth crease me, move over me              in waves

But it disallows my tampering, my efforts          to change


When I was eight

                      my favorite number, the sign for infinity, my birth date

my mother and I moved             into a little house

with stone fruit trees     in the backyard

                                                                 apricot and plum

They only bore fruit      that first year

             The leaves like little worms and bruises

                                                                              but no fruit again

The dog dug up             our tulip bulbs

                                                                 my favorite flower

then the tiger lilies

then he settled in to eating rocks

                                                    and mud

and veterinary bills

Then our family killed             the hydrangeas

                                                                 I bought for Mother’s Day

Then a desktop             bamboo plant


             a cactus


When I was even smaller

                                       a rose petal in a palm

we lived in a house somewhere far away        surrounded by citrus

The heavy fruits appeared as if from nothing              year after year

                                                                 we didn’t know death yet

My father must have tended them             though I can’t remember

                          anything but sun, the pool on Christmas

The lemons were so sweet        I ate them sectioned

                                                                              no sugar

They filled my mouth with sores

I found out years later              I’m allergic

             one of the rarest allergies in the world

I wanted to ask             if I’m allergic to dirt too

to growing, if it is really me       who kills everything we try to raise

The pin-prick test             raised welt after welt along my back

But No              the technician said      I’m sorry           We just can’t test for that

His eyes as wet             as a slippery melon half moon


I can’t touch the wisteria vine              though I know its climbing

I can only observe a sunflower            from a great distance

A baby robin          a pullet, a colt, a jake          died in my yard today

the shell still opening on the pavement            a pale blue


speckled, jagged, sharp, a reminder                 of what I can do

I have only the power of                       a poet

                                                                              to memorialize

to bury

             and to know: that, too

                                                       I do poorly


In the two years between my father’s death, his lung cancer, and your

almost-loss, your heart attack, I began to see signs, beacons silvering

the dark: white cigarette papers, white paleness of fingers, white coats,

white eggshells in the white sink with no eggs to show for them,

white sweeter than its own sugar, that white of a mild oblivion.

You think you’re owed my forgiveness because you’re my mother,

now, but what about then? Rule #1: All poets are monsters.

Your grief made you a poet. Your grief made one of me too.

I became a poet the day you made me limp back into the metallic-

scented dusk of the hospital to see another parent spread out

across the whiteness of sheets like a stain. Nicotine-yellow, an old

bruise come to meet me. I began a habit then I’ll never shed,

I name people by the way I think they’ll leave me: in death,

by accident, of their own volition, selfishly, selfishly, selfishly.

Rule #2: All poets are optimists. In these past two decades

we have become geniuses of the distracted barb, of inflicting pain

on the most tender swath of flesh, we have checked in together

to the hospice of living with each other. We have never walked

on the same sand again, and though you have never smoked another

cigarette, my name for you is still White Smoke. I still see it hanging

above your head, a brainfire, misfire, wetting the white hairs

at your scalp as if with dew. If I was fair, I’d throw stones at my

father’s ghost as well. But what joy can one grasp in yelling at the dead?

Rule #3: All poets are sadists. It’s the same amount of joy I hold

when I dog about after you. I’d like to think I could never

make my mother cry, but if I’m being honest we wring each other

out with each crack of the neck, each blink, each twist of hair

and each eyeballed moment. If I’m being honest, some part of me

wants to, wants you to feel like I do. Rule #4: All poets are masochists.

The skin on the backs of your hands is shivery, paper husked

in half, gutted—those veins trace a history of waving pain away,

of gathering it back to us again. They are blue, purple, they

are bruises, they are shadows of the same bird wings etched beneath

my sleeping eyelids, the ones that wake me. I know that. I know

it all, but. But isn’t my inability to forgive you a kind of love?

You mean too much to me. I have kept you only a breath away,

an exhalation, a smoke away from me for all these long, broken years.

I would never show this poem to anyone, I promise. I would

never tell what I can still feel you doing to me: forgetting, leaving,

so selfishly, selfishly, selfishly. Remember. Rule #5: All poets are liars.

Grocery Shopping With You

was as exciting as museums, the way you looked in museums like the Tate Modern when we lived in London and I was catapulted into you—it was ruthless, an oven-fresh kind of love that sprang out of the way you looked at things, as if they were oranges and you were sucking out the pith of them or maybe the way you moved through that one display, that stuttering lapse in judgment that was the giant-sized table and chairs hanging above your head because those misfits were so big you walked under them your palms not touching, but skirting so lightly, looking but not touching and bringing them

new life by the way you gave them something less myopic than a human eye, as if you were tall enough to see the tops

or maybe as good as going to Marseilles, which we chose because they mention the city in Casablanca, the sea-town foaming up, snoring away in sleep with salted ticks against time passing when we took the little boat to the Ile d’If, that island prison unchanged from the days it housed a guard rhinoceros and The Count of Monte Cristo and was stained with its wallowing, a clamshell beach that was lapped by water not emerald or turquoise, but a gray you made gather its sheen to throw on my hair, bees droning lazily in black-eyed susans as you took my picture and told me you loved the way I stood solo, alone, apart and my mouth looked like I had been eating blueberries so raw it was from kissing you

and even later, after you were not mine, after we were not each other’s for reasons, reasons were given but still, still

even later when I visited you in your new-old home in Chicago and we saw the Bean, but you did not look closely or take pictures because you passed it every day on your way to work, you suggested we go to the store for milk and bread and everything bagels, but you stopped yourself, knowing such a trip would be too intimate, too much like sex, more like sex than the sex we had that morning in your new-old bed, pretending we no longer loved, were no longer lovers, pretending intimacy, that picking out ripe avocados, was the dirtiest word of all

The Beginning of It

I left my blood

in uneven patches

all over Rhode Island.

Sliced the soft, untouched arch of my foot

in the shallows as the boat was brought to dock

and hobbled in to a rainsoaked July.


Bruises fade more quickly now

that your mouth has moved across my body.

So do bug bites.

So do the blunt pains

of moving through a quiet life.


When I wake next to you

in a room with no curtains,

this is what I see:


burned in a planetary splay

over shoulders corded with muscle

that move like wings stirring under your skin

when I run my nails up and down your back.

When we brush our teeth together,

side by side in the wide mirror,

reflected is the moment

you put your hand on the small of my back

when you lean over to turn the faucet on.

When we swim in the ocean

on the deserted beach,

bringing cheap beer in the can

out into the frigid water,

my whole head is drowning

in the look of you, in the unwritten moment

you emerge right next to me,

the cold no longer circling my ribcage.


You are giving me something,

and you don’t even know it.

You are enough it takes no toll on you.


Later, reading

in the grass by the salt pond,

the wound beneath me reopens.

It will reopen again and again.

I know we are standing on top of the headland

and deciding whether or not to jump.

I know I am bleeding.

But I don’t want to rewrite anything.

I don’t want memory to have to suffice for you.

I don’t want to imagine the poem of my life.

I want to reopen my wounds again and again,

knowing they heal faster in your company,

limping into August,

hoping for September,

my blood uneven heel prints on sandy ground.

Devon Bohm received her BA from Smith College and earned her MFA with a dual concentration in Poetry and Fiction from Fairfield University. In 2011, she was awarded the Hatfield Prize for Best Short Story, and in 2020, she was presented with an honorable mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. Her work has also been featured in publications such as Labrys, Necessary Fiction, and Spry. Follow her on Instagram @devonbohm.

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