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two poems /stacey forbes

No daughter of mine

To think I wasted my witch spit

on you: almost-woman trapping rabbits in her bare hands just to stroke their fur. Petter of fawn and fox. Lover of calf, and pup, and runt. How carefully you touch the trees. Didn’t I mark you with my own claws? Feral cat, little thistle in my heart, didn’t I teach you to feed? I should have turned away the first time I saw such soft fires in your eyes. Midnight falls on the fields and finds you threadbare, walking in new-fallen snow, thin as a wishbone that knows only hunger. The moon and I see right through the white gown your mother abandoned you in – laurel and ash always in your hair, your body still a child. In spite of everything, I love you enough to break the sparrow’s neck myself. And yet, you flinch.


The longing

No one loves like the dead.

Like moths, they drown themselves

in our light – and nothing is brighter

than the bonfire of a wounded heart

that cannot cauterize itself. A heart

now shattered into many empty

rooms, wide open spaces seething

with trees that toss their beauty

to the ground, if only to make

the fall a little softer for the living.

Maples, birch and fir shelter the

dead who now crouch outside

a window where somebody closes

her eyes and tries to sleep.

They watch as quivering lids

dart like deer, leaping after the

dream of a lover who once knew

the whole truth of blood and bone,

fingers fishing for rings, hunger

that rumbled and snapped. The dead

love you now more than ever because

you have always wanted their bodies

and now, at last, they know what

it means. Desire sharp as the tines

of a tuning fork fills the belly

that lives. The belly that doesn’t.

The dead are hungrier than anyone.

Give me the flesh of the peach, they say.

The eye of the storm that once raged

between us, the buzz of honey on the

tongue, salt licked from skin, fine hairs that rise on the neck, one hand asleep on

the small of the back. Who says the longing lies down when the body is buried?

Tell me you feel it – the love that is still holding on by the skin of its teeth.


Stacey Forbes’ poem “Speaking of trees” won first place in the 2021 Plough Poetry Prize. Her poems are published or forthcoming in Carve, Split Rock Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Blue Mountain Review, and Barren. Born in the white birch woods of Pennsylvania, Stacey now lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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