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karah kemmerly / two poems

it's springtime & everyone is depressed

magnolia lake at my feet

rainy day unrelenting

seems like everyone I know is going through a break-up

I have aged a thousand years in the last three

one spring I drove an hour to gawk at rows of peonies

each one heavy as a human heart in your hands

& unfurling even more recklessly

my heart gayer than ever

& so full of longing I half-drown

last spring I embroidered a lilac branch

tried to keep the past close with a series of cruel pinpricks

memory after memory darting through me

like minnows through the siphon of my chest

I let a woman tattoo me with violets

draw a vine along my collar & ink it in


my fatal flaw is wanting permanence

I drag desire around like a zombie on a leash

some nightcrawler resurrection man

jolting corpses back to life in the garden

rhododendrons looking on open-mouthed & unamused

if I could ask the flowers for anything

I’d ask them how to forget


self-portrait as persephone topside

it’s uncuffing season & so I wander

into a field again, styx-drenched & skeletal.

a double-take personified. the nightlight too bright

for my nocturnal tapetum, this filigree

of stars a delicate migraine. april flings

itself wanton & the nymphs go looking

for something that passes as love. come spring

I get so tired of myself, sleepwalking

through the garden & waking up hungover.

the magnolia petals glide into a pond

around my feet & I think about gravity,

how heavy it can feel to be so light.

although this is my home, I cannot return

easily. my new heart barely anchored: half-

muscle, half-pomegranate. part of me

still underground, the future waiting.


Karah Kemmerly is a queer writer who grew up in Northern California and now lives and teaches in Portland, Oregon. Kemmerly completed an MFA in poetry at Oregon State University and has published work in Redivider, Breakwater Review, HAD, and DEAR.

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