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Two Poets Email on a Sunday Afternoon

I used to think what happened to me / massive creature & putrid / pinned to the floor, ripped open, a man

inside my belly / was the exception / some House members believe this God’s will / brutalizing a little girl is

God’s will / but the more I read contemporary poetry / the Truths cover me / pelt of Bear, her fur thick & warm

/ my savior, my solace, memory re-created to favor dearness / as fires roar in the hearth / the more I realize it is

the Rule / Bear’s eyes like flints / we are off kilter, killing our Selves, our children / Do you think women who

have experienced sexual trauma / O save me from this devil’s breath / become poets or are poets simply /

nothing as simple as love / the ones expressing what happened? / that ache we carve memory call / sorrow /

I believe poets express what happened / Bear sliced herself open / allowed me to crawl in / I read it happens to

one in four women / how a kitchen can turn cave & at once we’re feral again / Surviving / though it began

with a simple pot, a drizzle of oil / I’ll bet it’s higher if you count all sexual violence / an Arizona woman in a

vegetative state for a decade gave birth & the headline says possible assault / reported or not / we stay silent in

the sticky places, jelly spilling from the jar / marmelada between our palms, our thighs / those blackout

caesuras we’ve been unsure what to call / we call ache call nopales split-scraped & sizzling on the comal /

thorn-flowers sprouting our throats / the crackle reminds us & we’re growling / on the tile / before we can turn

off the fire /


We Did Not Go To Prom

I spent prom night sandwiched between my mom’s boss’ two best friends [male models from Brazil] on a roller coaster. They

didn’t want me to be alone. They were the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen.

I spent the night wishing I was badass enough to kick in the balls of my ex/boyfriend for giving

me HPV & getting another girl pregnant while I was bathing the curettage in lukewarm water.

I wish I could prom[ulgate] the law of kindness.

I met a woman who had been a girl like me. We are different in every way. If you don’t know

how to look. If you look only at the outside.

Many times, I’ve nearly ended—everything. That woman/girl reaches into the past & holds me.

I work so hard for a prom[otion], I’m tired all the time.

My house slippers are wearing thin. The FB meme I just read feels like gospel You believed

your ex wasn’t a toxic piece of shit for like eight months. You can believe in yourself for five

minutes. I had a body once. It floated past toxic fish in the river, shiny as halos & ushered me

into the widest mouth of gulf. What unbodied existence. Sloughing selves & pasts & loves like

rattlesnake skins.

I appreciate poets that have gained prom[inence] for the beauty / truth of their words, but I’m afraid to stand out.

I moved to the bayou & crawfish & cold bottles of beer—but he left me. I crashed the car into a

parking garage. I sent a picture of my vagina to another poeta, accidentally. Of course I’d meant

to send it to the man who’d left me. The poeta told me to think nothing of it. She erased the

photo, was always on my #Team. Competition is not real. Love is.

Mostly I am prom[pt] but sometimes I get lost in a word & forget to start the car.

That woman/girl does not know how she holds me. She forgets her beauty. She sits in the car &


I walked along a prom[ontory] in Monterey enjoying the ocean air when I decided to leave my boyfriend. He was unkind.

Remember the bottle, the beryl, the break. We return to the beginning—

No one asked me to go to the prom[ ].

It’s not about the prom.

I would have arrived prom[ptly].

You did, love. You did.


Alicia Elkort’s poetry has appeared in AGNI, Black Lawrence Press, Califragile, Georgia Review, Heron Tree, Hunger Journal, Jet Fuel Review, Menacing Hedge, Rogue Agent, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Tinderbox Poetry Journal and many others. Alicia's poems have been nominated for the Orisons Anthology (2016), the Pushcart (2017), and Best of the Net (2018). She lives in California and will go to great lengths for an honest cup of black tea and a cool breeze.

Jennifer Givhan, a Mexican-American poet and novelist, has earned an NEA and a PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices fellowship. Her books include Landscape with Headless Mama (2015 Pleiades Editors’ Prize), Protection Spell (2016 Miller Williams Poetry Prize Series), Girl with Death Mask (2017 Blue Light Books Prize), Rosa’s Einstein (2019 Camino Del Sol Poetry Series), and two novels, Trinity Sight and Jubilee (Blackstone Publishing). Her work has appeared in Best of the Net, Best New Poets, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Ploughshares, POETRY, TriQuarterly, Boston Review, AGNI, Crazyhorse, Witness, Southern Humanities Review, Missouri Review, and The Kenyon Review. She lives near the Sleeping Sister volcanoes in New Mexico with her family, and can be found discussing feminist motherhood at, Facebook, & Twitter @JennGivhan.

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