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White Walls


We moved into the house

the way mice do.

Brisk, minor movements.

Wary to claim. Fingernails

breaking by the hour, I hedged

the hole in my chest

underneath the magnolia. Malady

for another afternoon.

The man who once lived here

wants my head in a paint bucket

and every noise has a murderous

top note. Gravel on gravel

on gravel. As it should be.

All these artists pretend

being an outcast absolves them

of their property—they must

be exhausted. Praise the

beehive in the north wall

that I am not an artist, not one

to be absolved. Will says hot tubs

make socialists into liberals

and he’s right. We imagine

the public baths as tiny figurines

circling the drain

of a string-lighted back deck.

I search “public baths Syracuse”

and find “Bawdy by Ky,”

a day spa that seems only

to live inside Google Maps.

Inside an empty house a phone

buzzes, becoming eerie. When it rains

I do not know my neighbors.

The loneliness has a gold edge.

Every dream an aging mentor.

Do not cry about

the old life. Cross the paws

and flick the ferns. Wonder at who

cleared the petals off

the sidewalk. Did the rain

do that? Did you? Steel yourself

against the waning of the light

and do not spend a dollar.

Someone will be there to help

when you need it. Say it.

Say it again. Someone

will be there to help

when you need it. You do not

need it.

Blurry Blue


In a planetarium under

a planetarium the voice

of Liam Neeson will tell you

about the cosmic

microwave background.

Grief so thick

it sets the timeline spinning.

We clutch the railing

and cackle.


Somewhere beyond

the plastic neanderthals

a blue heart refuses rhythm.

Corazon azul but probably

from New Jersey. I didn’t

write it down. The rock

is called diaboleite

and you think demon.

But two English guys

were just mad about boleite,

a mineral that evaded understanding,

and they were even more mad

to find another blue problem.

“Spencer and Mountain

named it diaboleite, meaning

‘distinct from boleite,’

out of ‘desperation.’”


I would have just named it


I saw this blue once before—

it was at a bird funeral

it was on the icy perfect

body of the bird

and when Gala handed me

a bag full of seeds to take home

I carried them around in case I found

a place of honor.

When I find myself reaching

for conversation

as I so often do

I say I have bird seed

in my bag if you want some,

because I went to a bird funeral.

People like to ask questions

after that.


Sometimes I say I like noise music

and then have to explain

what that is. It doesn’t help

to say “it’s what it sounds like.”

Or to say “performance”

“industrial” or “no wave.”

Next time I will try “have you

watched a brain scramble

inside someone you loved.”

I will try “Grate me

into the beams.”


When I say I am grieving

they wonder who died

and so do I. One of us did,

or neither one. I walk

the oldest edge of the universe

with a heart like railyard.

A blue problem.

I do not pretend to know

what your heart is like.

Shooting Star


When people used to go to the underworld

at least they had journeys. Serious undertakings.

Now we just wake up and find ourselves

facing a three-headed dog, asking if anyone’s

ever tried positive reinforcement. A friend

texts me to tell me she’s feeling more evil

than I could possibly imagine and I point out

I can imagine quite a lot. And not even call it

evil. Imagination is memory is a parasite.

Her tough chin a tattoo. No such thing

as infinity in the boiling river but nothing

shocks me either. I do get angry at documentaries claiming to say something about time. Over there

in time is a message from the hospital and yet it lives right here in my phone. And here. And

here. Who gives a shit. An unfathomable array

of universes and in this one women

with lips like glazed grubs compete

to marry a millionaire—or someone who might

not be a millionaire—the television show won’t

tell them yet. Probably this happens in a billion universes. In one of them, instead of watching

Joe Millionaire, I know whether you’re alive or dead. This is physics. If time is infinite, which

it probably is, and if space is not, which

it’s probably not, then at some point every possible configuration of particles will repeat.

The curl of your laugh is so possible.

Even now, when it is not.

Liz Bowen is the author of the poetry collections Sugarblood (Metatron Press, 2017) and Compassion Fountain (Trembling Pillow Press, 2022). She is an assistant professor of bioethics and humanities at SUNY Upstate Medical University, where she teaches and does research at the intersections of disability studies, health justice, and bioethics. She is the senior poetry editor at Peach Mag and the disability section editor for Public Books. Her writing has been published in Shabby Doll House for the past ten years. :)

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