As seen in Aries: Journals of Art and Literature

Poems awarded the 2013 Royce Ray Poetry Award, 

selected by Pulitzer Prize nominee, Vivian Shipley

Soft Core Birches

My boyfriend hid in his fort

maintaining radio silence. I strummed

on different frequencies and circled

the woods around him, then made an army

of woodland furries and gave them orders in song.

Pressing into the dirt, I splintered out two legs

like trees. They swelled right

below the knees and silked thin

like ribbons near my feet.

The furries stitched me a bird’s nest dress and pine

needle petticoat that I obsessively fluffed. 

But his windows were still dark.

He doesn’t like you the way he should, the furries

explained to me. “No, it’s just that my antlers are bigger than his.”

The furries didn’t like it when he used

my clavicles like bicycles handlebars.

What’s he doing in there? the furries asked me.

I chewed on venison and replied, “Working

on merit badges. He always does the right thing.” 



Swamping ponds murked thick with indigo

ink. Rain and hail

pinged off my tin roof, every drop.

Down in the water, bullfrogs. The weeping


willow, swam slowly in

the wind like a tired child’s

legs treading water.

I sat on the scalloped edge of my quilt, the stitches stiff

as metal, a girl with hair

that is black when wet and eyes

even darker with the lights off.

My mother’s old shirt tripped into my knees as I toed

to the window. I chewed the collar, felt for the window seat.


Ice balls sounded plush on the grass, the weeds.

I heard the great blue heron’s undercoat

saturate. Tomorrow’s climbing trees dampened

into corks. The rain would do the same to me, make me

smell more like magnolias and less like field flowers.


The rain soaked the roof until it folded in on itself

and then filled the house, lifting me

up like a tree frog squinting

silver pupils and trilling

my pulse into the night.

I was so tired of needing.

I let the darkness

of my showered hair drench my sleep shirt

until I was fully submerged.