"How We Unravel the Noose," "The Air Still Embracing Us," and "Cake"

How We Unravel the Noose

with thanks to Jenn Givhan

I sang my children
down from the stars.
Lonely, my heartbeat
too loud inside my ribs.
Firstborn, my son conceived three days after whisky and pills filled my belly. I hurled myself back into the lifestream to meet him. Seventeen: stubble and broad shoulders hide the boy I carried who peers from his eyes after spearwords, I never asked to be born, land and our tears mingle, bathe the wounds language inflicts on us both.
My children watch me struggle
not to send myself back to space.
We pretend my shadowy smiles fool
people formed in time with my pulse.
I cannot give my children a dead mother because the one who replaces me
would be sweeter, would never lock herself away from them, would never climb
out of herself and slide along the rafters, a noise shaking the roof.
She could not teach them how to shed tight skins when starsong
and earthpain combine and overwhelm and it is time to flit
around the moon twice before coming back to pull the epidermis
back into place, she could not teach them how we sing ourselves back
into bodies we are not ready to abandon, how we heal generational scars
with our refusal to tighten the noose. How we unravel the noose.



The Air Still Embracing Us

Spring rain gnawed the earth beneath my car,
took loud bites from the riverbank until
we drifted into the swollen river, lover, self,
and car. The clangs jerked me beside her, branches
and rocks knocking against us. No water soaked inside
where we lay on folded seats because this happened
only in images my mind loops so I never forget how
many ways the air itself will someday refuse me.

I am adrift, always. The mud did not devour
the car, the noise our bodies created startled
me, made me know drowning, taste mud
and rain flecked with her salt, sliding
into my lungs, blocking the breeze, even
with the air still embracing us.




I miss being a cake,
glaze sealing me from air,
my crumbs hovering together
in a honeycomb of leavening,
gamete, gluten, and lipid
suspended with sugar
and hope. To exist as symbol,
not expected to contribute
to growth, to scaffold
a skeleton or frame frontal
lobes, only to melt on the tongue,
trigger a release of endorphins.
To be a sticky memory licked
from fingers, crystal by crystal.



Ki Russell

Ki Russell teaches writing, literature, and creative writing at Blue Mountain Community College in Oregon. She is the author of Antler Woman Responds (Paladin), The Wolf at the Door (Ars Omnia), and How to Become Baba Yaga (Medulla). She also serves as poetry peer reviewer for Whale Road Review. Her poems have been published in many online and print journals. She recommends PAWS: Pendleton Animal Welfare Shelter.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, June 5, 2023 - 20:01