top of page


You say words work when hands can’t

reach. So I try, send you messages

that set a scene: the tool shed out back,

windows steamed, wood grain

from the work table pressing patterns

into my bare thighs. You write back:

We’d knock over the bag of seed for songbirds,

use the foot stool to get a better angle, grab

the twine to bind us. I tell you

the next door neighbor, pruning her shrubs,

might hear us faintly, might think us

an exotic bird decrying its cage, or perhaps

just a bitch in heat moaning down the street.

No matter, it would remind her, little Miss Mary,

of her dead husband, those nights they’d escape

from their newborn and hide behind

the grape arbor. I watch her on the weekends,

riding the lawn mower he left for her,

how she smiles, dentures wiggling, as it buckles

and bumps beneath her. And I know

you’re looking for a different image

as you sneak a glance at your phone

beneath the conference table. I know

I’ve veered from the storyline you want,

but it’s still a fantasy all the same,

to feel someone when they’re gone.


Isabelle Shepherd is a poet from West Virginia. She now lives in Wilmington, NC, where she received her MFA from UNCW. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, The Journal, Ninth Letter, Redivider, Sixth Finch, and elsewhere. More of her work and upcoming reading dates can be found on

bottom of page