by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


Friday, rhythmless quirk in the week, slinked through
rooms exploring alternatives to her body. Terrified,
she scorched a wide, unflinching bread, slept fitful
and odd-angled in a maudlin tangle of barely tinted
doors. Limping sunflowers died and dripped, denying
their possible role as hair. Her skin arced away from
his jumbled televised teeth, and she distinctly warbled
a blue. A second blue. A much louder blue. Before
daring her given name aloud, she measured a dozen
marbles with the ruin of her throat, stomached their
scrape until she was efficiently choked and blossomed.
His voice, a backslap of citrus, urged and urged her
deeper into the tomb of her bedside. Instead, she
poured gold into a squat thumbed tumbler, swiped
threads of bourbon from her chin, suppressed a pain
akin to lightning. She lay back, the way he thought
he wanted her, and let the storm bloom in her bones.

Photo of Patricia Smith

Photo of Patricia Smith

Patricia Smith is the author of eight books of poetry, including Incendiary Art; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler, a National Book Award finalist; and Gotta Go, Gotta Flow, a collaboration ion with award-winning Chicago photographer Michael Abramson.  Her other books include the poetry volumes Teahouse of the Almighty, Close to Death, Big Towns Big Talk, Life According to Motown; the children's book Janna and the Kings and the history Africans in America, a companion book to the award-winning PBS series. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Baffler, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Tin House and in Best American Poetry and Best American Essays. Her contribution to the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir won the Robert L. Fish Award from the Mystery Writers of America for the best debut story of the year and was featured in the anthology Best American Mystery Stories.

She is a Guggenheim fellow, a National Endowment for the Arts grant recipient, a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize, a former fellow at both Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony, and a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, the most successful poet in the competition’s history. Patricia is a professor at the College of Staten Island and in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College, as well as an instructor at the annual VONA residency and in the Vermont College of Fine Arts Post-Graduate Residency Program.