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Jane Donohue is a writer of poetry and prose from New Hampshire. Her work has appeared in On the Seawall, RHINO, West Branch, Stone of Madness, and Good River Review, where it was nominated for a 2023 Best of the Net Award.


There are days in early summer when the sky looms

like a lover, when clouds chorus unanswerable threats,

when you can press your ear to the air and hear someone

shuffling about on the other side. There are mornings cradled

in grey-green, soil-spotted gloves, dainty fingers

flinging ants off picnic porcelain.

Sometimes summer laves an open-mouthed kiss over your skinned knee.

The air smells of coins in a parking lot puddle. Everything sounds

like a car backfiring. Someone is humming just outside

the screen door. During summer you can sit on the porch

spitting cherry pits into the garden, wishing on the wanton soil.

Rushing about reeling windows shut to keep the storm outside.

Sun-red cheeks, spaghetti strap rapunzel, bleeding-sweet peach bruising brown.

In summer you’ll splay atop the sea’s wide, probing tongue.

Sandhill bunkers at the foot of your bed, sweat-dewed shoulders, sucking sea salt hair.

In summer we play cat’s cradle with the heat. In summer our bodies

are rooms full of tripwires. The heat slinks in, tentacled and gluttonous,

cherry spit dripping on the pavement.


The dentist paints numbing agent on my teeth,

thick and grainy, sweet like supermarket frosting.

She paints like she might crack my teeth—

moth’s wing incisor, acorn cap molar.

My jaw aches, a pain I wish I could suck

into my mouth and swallow, swaddled

in my stomach for safekeeping.

The dentist pinches my tongue

like it’s a baby jellyfish washed up after a storm.

I am whittled down to my mouth, to my teeth

and their corresponding numbers.

Mouth full of runes I don’t know how to read.

Sometimes I bleed. I swallow the taste dutifully.

A gloved finger hooks my cheek. I can be so good like this.


I am aspiring to moirology, apprenticed to mourning.

I learn the language small grief by small grief:

the empty playground of my elementary school,

the six-foot snowbanks of my childhood.

I hold a funeral for the lightning bug that dies

in the thin lampshade of my hand,

build a casket for each ribbon of roadkill along the highway.

I can’t laugh without mourning, can’t say goodbye

without wondering if we’ll have the chance to say it again.

I go about my days breast bared, soil up to the elbows

and mud on my cheeks. I make a new fashion of it.

All my favorite clothes are torn or in the wash.

I am practicing grief always, honing my keening to a pin

I’ll poke through God’s heart. No one will get out of this alive.


Some animal met its maker in the backyard last night.

Press of wing on snow, flutter of feather in the morning air,

blood on slush like strewn jewels on velvet.

The dog sniffs the evidence, the mise-en-scène of a death.

I pull him away, bowing my head close, closer—

speckle of meat, gleam of scraped-off scale.

There are few trees to hide in here, but perhaps enough

to make a meal, a clandestine kill on a winter’s night.

Can I make augury of this, dirt and blood scribbled on snow?

Unspool the entrails, read within something I didn’t realize

I already knew. On the couch, I suckled red wine from its boxed bag.

On the other side of the door, this scrounging for life.

I change the channel to avoid commercials, a bird dies in the backyard.

The snow is thick and sticky: fossil preservation for held breath.

I can’t eulogize this bird—I don’t even know its name.


I fling my legs through heavy air,

splay facedown on the couch cushions.

With lazy fingers I pet the dog. If I could

press a button and wake tomorrow morning I

would, emerging into new day

like a storybook princess slinking into the ball,

abashed by my transformation. Instead, I stay

swaddled in nimble listlessness, the drifting

unique to Sundays and dim spring afternoons.

Walking the dog I shuffle, a swamp creature with

pajama pants blooming above my boots.

A bird sings loud overhead, a skein of song

unspooling from thimble-sized lungs.

I press a fingernail againstmy two front teeth,

mortified they don’t align, amused by my mortification.

The rum I keep in my closet makes me gag

but it’s a little funny, standing in the mouth

of my illuminated closet, sneaking occasional shots

and coughing the taste from my mouth,

going to bed at 9:30. It’s funny to feel ugly

while walking the dog, while hearing the bird

overhead and wishing to whistle back,

lumbering from one day to the next,

always listening for that white-throated birdsong.


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