Yesterday in Therapy                                                            by Kayla McCollough

I.
Yesterday the cool wet kiss
of the cool wet rain was a surprising
comfort. The months had been filled
with too much sun. Sitting in front
of my therapist, I said, “I feel great.”
I smiled like I meant it. I think 
I meant it. She said, “You should be
proud. Look at all you’ve accomplished.”

Such unbelievably positive feedback—
I cried. My therapist asked, “What
are you feeling?” Isn’t that
always the therapist question?
What was I feeling? Something
like happiness, something
like relief. I didn’t know
that foreign choking, but the tears
I knew—a similar hot to all the other
times I cried because I felt ugly
or worthless or lost. No—something
like happiness. Something. 

II.
Today, I try to soak out the heavy dread,
and I don’t care that the tub is cold
and the bubbles have flattened. 
The wine I sip is too dry and stale, heavy
on my tongue, bitter. I don’t care
that my muscles protest the cold water. 
They clench and tremble, skin paling blue.
I am too heavy to move. 
The candle is falling dim. The dark
is creeping in. I can’t feel my heart.
It is not my heart.

Yesterday’s heart was squeezed by a miracle
of self-love. I want that heart, that healthy
beating heart. But now I don’t care
that I haven’t reached for the shampoo.
Ten cold minutes and I can’t even think
of the razor. Not that I would—I wish I could.
I wish I could do something but sit heavy
in this pitiless water. I wish I could vomit 
this sick stomach. I wish this wine was turpentine. 
I could see something then—see something come
from me: some action. Not these damn words, this suffocating
silence. I wish that blood and that laugh was my laugh.
I wish that heart in yesterday was sometimes my heart.

Kayla McCollough graduated from PSU in May 2020 with an MA in English. She often writes introspective poems that explore emotions and the daily struggles with anxiety. Sometimes these poems turn into songs. In her spare time, Kayla cares for plants and creates macrame and embroidery projects. When it’s warm, she’s outside soaking up the sun and enjoying birds or other creatures.

Guest Editor Katelyn Roth graduated from Pittsburg State University with her Master’s in poetry. Her work has previously appeared online at Silver Birch Press and at Heartland: Poems of Love, Resistance, and Solidarity. Currently, she lives, works, and writes in Kansas City.

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The Promise — By Kyla McCollough

At night, in my dark sleeplessness, I tell promises

to the stars, to the gods, to the monsters

in my closet and under my bed, to the cicadas who know

what it means to be always looking for love. 

I make promises I want to keep, but really

they’re just full-hearted half-barters,

like a kid who begs his mother for a puppy

or pleads before supper for two scoops

of ice cream, even small ones: I

tell cicada-star-monster-gods

I will be nice to myself. I will love myself

if you just give me someone to love me, too.

These lies I cannot keep. I 

don’t have time to make this kind 

of promise, the courage to wait. 

I do not have the power

to shake hands with an angel or a voodoo man.

I write the promise in sand, in thought clouds

looming overhead, in the not-so-secretly hidden

journal in the bedside table. 

I tell myself, the cicada-star-monster-god,

the weak angel, the wayfaring lover.

I tell only those who won’t hear.

~ Kayla McCollough

Kayla McCollough graduated from PSU in May 2020 with an MA in English. She often writes introspective poems that explore emotions and the daily struggles with anxiety. Sometimes these poems turn into songs. In her spare time, Kayla cares for plants and creates macrame and embroidery projects. When it’s warm, she’s outside soaking up the sun and enjoying birds or other creatures.

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood, and consults on creativity. YourRightLivelihood.com, Bravevoice.com, CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

My Red-Bellied Woodpecker                                                 by Kayla McCollough

She lives in my dorsal cavity, flitting
between vertebrae and brain. In humid
air, her strong wings beat past blood
and bone and thoughts. She packs

my brain wrinkles with small treasures:
glossy photos and her favorite colors, 
emerald and honey yellow. Sometimes
she perches on the spongy walls and sings

a small guttural song, kwirr kwirr churr—
her favorite—but when she’s lonely,
a throaty, crying cough, cha cha cha.
She feeds on termite words, sad

berries, and hard nutshells, jams them
into any crook and crack crack cracks them
back into manageable pieces. 

Kayla McCollough graduated from PSU in May 2020 with an MA in English. She often writes introspective poems that explore emotions and the daily struggles with anxiety. Sometimes these poems turn into songs. In her spare time, Kayla cares for plants and creates macrame and embroidery projects. When it’s warm, she’s outside soaking up the sun and enjoying birds or other creatures. 

Guest Editor Katelyn Roth graduated from Pittsburg State University with her Master’s in poetry. Her work has previously appeared online at Silver Birch Press and at Heartland: Poems of Love, Resistance, and Solidarity. Currently, she lives, works, and writes in Kansas City.