Two Poems by Caitlin Grace McDonnell

Instructions for Not Caring

Remember that the population of dreams
can be recast. Errata. For the shark
stuck in the snowbank. Read: Power.
The lover who receives a name can
always become the rabbi, the clockmaker.
The maternal tug of the heart is the one
we can tie bricks to our feet for, walk
into the cold lake. Do it lovingly, with silk
separating the big toe from the rest. For
our mothers, finally, will we open our fists?
Show what we’ve been holding? For
ornithologist, read unemployed. For EMT,
Insomniac. Maybe we like to sleep with people
to pretend that death doesn’t happen alone.
Don’t show me the other side of the machine.
Please cover your logic board. There are tiny
pills like little planets that will turn off your mind.
Do you really want the job? Wouldn’t you rather
turn out the light and practice for your greatest
show yet? Everyone will say, she was always
beyond all that. She was always part
here and part deep in the seaweed, the lake
moss. Walking with a fearlessness earned
by breaking, over and over, with grace.

Letter from the End of the World

What do you do to get through the day?
The sight of war:  schools, churches, malls,
garlic festivals and my uterus.
Reality being unbearable, we prefer
to dance with death with salt
on the rim. The earth is burning
so why are we drowning? Where can I melt
my argument, how do I excavate this hard
metal I’ve swallowed like a question mark?
I blur enough to get my child out of bed
and off to school to learn about conquests
and hide under desks. Get out of bed
my friend texts me when I can’t sleep.
Get something cold from the fridge,
roll it in your hands and try to breathe.

Caitlin Grace McDonnell was a New York Times Poetry Fellow at NYU where she received her MFA. She has published poems and essays widely, including a chapbook, Dreaming the Tree (2003) and two books of poems, Looking for Small Animals (2012) and Pandemic City (2021) She lives with her daughter and teaches writing in New York City.

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as TheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso ReviewHarbor Review’s chapbook prize is named in her honor. She expects her next collection, The Book of Stolen Images (Meadowlark) to be out in a few months.


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