I wouldn’t even know what to do with a third chance,
another halo to shake loose galloping into the crossfire.
Should I be apologizing? Supposedly, what’s inside my
body is more or less the same as what’s inside yours—
here, the river girl clutching her toy whistle. There,
the black snake covered in scabs. Follow my neckline,
the beginning will start beginning again. I swear on my
head and eyes, there are moments in every day when
if you asked me to leave, I would. Heaven is mostly
preposition—up, above, around—and you can live
any place that’s a place. A failure of courage is still
a victory of safety. Bravery pitches its refugee tent
at the base of my brain and slowly starves, chipping into
darkness like a clay bird bouncing down a well. All night
I eat yogurt and eggplant and garlic, water my dead
orchids. In what world would any of me seem credible?
God’s word is a melody, and melody requires repetition.
God’s word is a melody I sang once then forgot.
Copyright © 2018 Kaveh Akbar. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Spring 2018.
looking over the plums, one by one
lifting each to his eyes and
turning it slowly, a little earth,
checking the smooth skin for pockmarks
and rot, or signs of unkind days or people,
then sliding them gently into the plastic.
whistling softly, reaching with a slim, woolen arm
into the cart, he first balanced them over the wire
before realizing the danger of bruising
and lifting them back out, cradling them
in the crook of his elbow until
something harder could take that bottom space.
I knew him from his hat, one of those
fine porkpie numbers they used to sell
on Roosevelt Road. it had lost its feather but
he had carefully folded a dollar bill
and slid it between the ribbon and the felt
and it stood at attention. he wore his money.
upright and strong, he was already to the checkout
by the time I caught up with him. I called out his name
and he spun like a dancer, candy bar in hand,
looked at me quizzically for a moment before
remembering my face. he smiled. well
hello young lady
hello, so chilly today
should have worn my warm coat like you
yes so cool for August in Chicago
how are things going for you
oh he sighed and put the candy on the belt
it goes, it goes.
Copyright © 2018 Eve L. Ewing. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Spring 2018.
The buck is thawing a halo on the frosted ground,
shot in our field predawn.
Last night we pulled a float in the Christmas parade.
It was lit by a thousand tiny lights.
My daughter rode in my lap and was thrilled
when the float followed us. Ours is a small town.
Everyone was there. And their faces,
not seeing ours, fixed behind us, were an open sea,
a compound sea of seas that parted
under our gaze. And Santa was bright,
though my daughter shied from the noise of him.
She studied the red and white fur of his suit.
She woke this morning when the rifle fired outside.
I lifted her to see the sunrise
and her father, kneeling above the buck’s body
in the middle distance. She asked if they would be cold.
I brought him gloves and warm water, knelt with him
in the spare light by the buck, who steamed, whose liver
and heart, kept so long dark,
spilled onto the winter grass,
whose open eyes saw none of it, realized
nothing of my husband’s knife
slicing open his abdomen, his rectum. The puncture
of his diaphragm startled me more than the gunshot,
opening a cavern of deep blood that poured
over his white belly. I did not
understand the offering, but loved it,
the fur red, white, incoherent. Somehow cleaner.
When I come back in, she asks me to draw a picture
of her father on the hill. I pick her up—the miracle
of her lungs that grew inside me,
kept long dark—her working heart
let out into the rounder world,
the more extravagant feast. The miracle
of her dad on the hill as we draw him
in his big coat, warm. Afterward,
how he and I hold each other
the collections of muscles
and organs held
somehow together. The miracle
of bodies, formed whole like fruits,
skins unruptured and
containing the world.
Copyright © 2018 Leah Naomi Green. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Spring 2018.
You’re beautiful, sister, eat more fruit,
said the attendant every time my mother
pulled into the 76 off Ashby Avenue.
We never knew why. She didn’t ask
and he didn’t explain. My brother and I
would look at each other sideways
in the back seat, eyebrows raised—
though, lord knows, we’d lived in Berkeley
long enough. He smiled when he said it,
then wiped the windows and pumped the gas.
I liked the little ritual. Always the same
order of events. Same lack of discussion.
Could he sense something? Attune to an absence
of vitamin C? Or was it just a kind of flirting—
a way of tossing her an apple, a peach?
It’s true my mother had a hidden ailment
of which she seldom spoke, and true
she never thought herself a beauty,
since in those days, you had to choose
between smart and beautiful, and beauty
was not the obvious choice for a skinny
bookish girl, especially in Barbados.
No wonder she became devout,
forsaking nearly everything but God
and science. And later she suffered
at the hands of my father, whom she loved,
and who’d somehow lost control
of his right fist and his conscience.
Whose sister was she, then? Sister
of the Early Rise, the Five-O’Clock Commute,
the Centrifuge? Sister of Burnt Dreams?
But didn’t her savior speak in parables?
Isn’t that the language of the holy?
Why wouldn’t he come to her like this,
with a kind face and dark, grease-smeared arms,
to lean over the windshield of her silver Ford sedan,
and bring tidings of her unclaimed loveliness,
as he filled the car with fuel, and told her—
as a brother—to go ahead,
partake of the garden, and eat of it.
Copyright © 2018 Danusha Laméris. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Spring 2018.
The Lindt Easter bunny
you said was “solid”
chocolate turned out
to be hollow—its head
caved in when I peeled
back the gold foil
which was probably
better left wrapped,
every language having
its own version of “beer
I like your mouth best
when there’s nothing in it,
just two rows of teeth
surrounding a tongue
stunned into silence.
Copyright © 2018 Timothy Liu. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Spring 2018.
When you ask me to split a dessert with you, I wince
because I don’t like to share my restaurant food
and there is the matter of who pays for what.
If I don’t order a drink and just have a salad,
always the person in the group who gobbled steak,
a glass of wine, and two appetizers says, Let’s just split
the check equally! But you, you raise your eyebrows when
the waitress mentions a brambleberry tart and maybe
so do I. When she places the piping-hot pie dish
with two funnels of steam and two spoons, you look
at me and say: dig in. We have already tasted
from each other’s lips when we’ve shared cold glasses
before. I’m fairly certain across this table across the slide
of the fork, even the knife we both use—this is how
thumbnail-sized coquina clams feel when they tumble
and toss into the shoreline from an impending storm—
how they gasp and slide their feet trying to brace
themselves, then thwap—another wave. And after
that tumble, the sunlight glows below you, and then
above you, where it should be, and I wipe my mouth
with the pink napkin and in the folds of that napkin
is a lipstick kiss where the kiss should be—never
between your neck and shoulder. Our mouths will press
only on this sugar, this glaze, and this caramelized topping.
Copyright © 2018 Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Spring 2018.
Stone path, oat grass, stray cat, snare,
feather drift in feather air.
Laurel, anthill, train horn blare,
pecan shell shards on the stair.
One cat gnaws,
one wing tears.
Less song for the power line to bear.
Coo-OO-oo she sang, my dear.
Copyright © 2018 Cecily Parks. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Spring 2018.
Peonies, heavy and pink as ’80s bridesmaid dresses
and scented just the same. Sweet pea,
because I like clashing smells and the car
I drove in college was named that: a pea-green
Datsun with a tendency to backfire.
Sugar snap peas, which I might as well
call memory bites for how they taste like
being fourteen and still mourning the horse farm
I had been uprooted from at ten.
Also: sage, mint, and thyme—the clocks
of summer—and watermelon and blue lobelia.
Lavender for the bees and because I hate
all fake lavender smells. Tomatoes to cut
and place on toasted bread for BLTs, with or without
the b and the l. I’d like, too, to plant
the sweet alyssum that smells like honey and peace,
and for it to bloom even when it’s hot,
and also lilies, so I have something left
to look at when the rabbits come.
They always come. They are
always hungry. And I think I am done
protecting one sweet thing from another.
Copyright © 2018 Katherine Riegel. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Spring 2018.
His wings rest at his feet.
His fists curl inside a brown paper bag.
The alert beak propped on his head
aims down the block into sidewalk pools
of streetlight. His red lips make plump
numbers. He has so much candy
the bottom bulges. A pumpkin arrives
on spindly orange legs, followed by
a skeleton crew of two with unkept
postures, baggy knees, and flaccid spines.
A ghost sidles up, his sheet belted,
a baseball cap holding sloppy eyeholes
in place. He hurries off with his posse
of short immortals, leaving the
wings where he stood.
The mother says, “Oh, look,”
disappointment as she brushes rubble
from feathers. She searches through streetlight
for her angel, holding the wings
so he’ll dig his arms through the straps,
shrugging on tonight’s beast.
Copyright © 2018 Amber Flora Thomas. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Spring 2018.