Stephanie Cawley

Letter to Nina



I’m sorry you are so sad, little bloodmoon.

Here, the mouse has worn itself out hunting

dried flecks of lettuce

under the stove. It’s a slow news day, the tulips



droop cold in their pots, and your mother

is seven years dead. We’ll have to wait for a new blue

shade to fall in love

with. In the meantime, you could try a glass of wine



and a bathtub and a satiny robe. Or sniff out

a litigator with good teeth, a silver car

where you can unfurl

your hair like a flag. In movies,



sad women become skinny

and fuckable, but instead you get

a tiny mutt who bares his teeth. I was feeling like

an empty to-do list, too, clutching



the hot handles of sauce pans, stitching

and un-stitching a scratchy scarf. I know the wharf

looks like a hopeless bathtub

for swallowing whales.



I know the sea wall has become a flimsy

barrier against the watery

dead. Our childhood landscape a dumb place

to be lonesome: swordfish lacquered



and mounted over the bar,

a giant inflatable crab

tethered to a restaurant’s roof. But mostly,

the stars keep asserting



their far-off burning and you

are exactly as sharp-toothed

as they say you are. All shark and bluster

and rattling the cage bars. It’s a good time of year



for shredding last year’s

highlight reel, pissing on the neighbor’s

prized rose bushes, and tearing up the dead

lawn with pointy, hot pink claws.

Everything Kept Happening Anyway



Dear leaf-rot / dear black spot in the tomato’s heart /

little icemelt starlight / dear daughter / little cattail /

little invasive species tipping the balance to too much

salt: / my heart is a shell around a sticky animal /

a long oystery foot / I had been crying / about the end

of a book / and the man who walked past grunted

in my ear /and it was the shortest day / and the sun

arced above / clouds a texture of purled yarn /

soft wool / across the horizon thin bands of peach

light and opalescent blue / some people live whole lives

swathed in artificial fruit: / strawberry / lemon

fizz / the girl in the terminal this morning headed to rehab /

I cannot stop singing the glacial storms too slow to sing

themselves / singing a shield against whistles and leers /

a long sleepy column of sun / whether a home here

can ever not be made of blood / I don’t protest /

I don’t even grow my hair long / my sister needs a warm

coat / the sun a room swept of dust / the sun a radiant

plastic future / a black dog the size of a palm on the floor

in the airport bathroom / all my conversations with daughters

who may or may not ever become: / how to explain

all that blood and longing and wind in a breathless rush /

what will happen to the baskets and black yarn flecked

with gold / fake diamonds and long mornings half-asleep

in the car / sour songs on the radio / the open window /

what a constellation of birdcalls / catcalls / yowls

from the alley / and my sister next day says the man

called her sexy and ugly in the same breath: / put a bag

over that and lick it all over / I don’t want that man

in my poem / I don’t want that man on the street / I scrub

the city clean in the game of all women with extravagant

muscles / it’s not the end of the world

in this poem it’s the beginning.


Writer Stephanie Cawley author photo
STEPHANIE CAWLEY is from southern New Jersey. Her poems have been featured in Best New Poets and the PEN Poetry Series, and have recently appeared or are forthcoming in journals like TYPOPowder KegH_NGM_NBirdfeastThe Adroit Journal, and Prelude.