Poetry by Clara Allison


The morning the year turned 

rain laid its slick pelt down, 

sixty degrees, almost steaming, and

the last mangoes were on their way to rot.  

Dad would bring them every December––

imported jubilance for austerity of 

winter. Still touched from Peruvian sun. 

Every morning I’d halve one, till January. 

Point the knife, angle, slice. 

swap for the dull spade of the spoon

gliding, smooth, along the cranial shape, 

the routine scrape of a sweeter flesh. 

I wanted to rid my head of you

how I clean this skin. How I salvage

what’s good 

and do away with the rest.  

How you never showed, 

a soft spot of wilt,

how it’s someone new every year. 

How tenderness bruises 

in an absence of touch. 

This Morning’s Manicure Requirements Given Your Neurosis 

If you have the patience, the loose, languid gesture 

of the hand might just catch on someone,

drag them out, caught like a thread. 

You’ll wear a shirt untucked rather than 

disguising a seam pockmarked with red

or be blissfully unaware of 

the incessant throbs that thrum 

at the swell of your thumb, 

the there there there of pulse 

will gather


Today you may just be good. 

If you have the patience, the file will grate your callous 

back to nil, manage ten round edges. 

Do not yield to the fiery burn of the flesh––  

the antiseptic’s clean. 

You may be heard, you may be seen—or enmesh 

another touch with yours, 

close in on a prayer. 

Polish over the keratin cracks with a glossy lacquer layer. 

For good measure shake with friends or priests,

offer a smile at very least 

to someone who will maybe listen. 

If you have the patience

you won’t nibble away at the nothing left  

but count five cool digits and

ball a fist. 

You’ll probe fearlessly, not yank at

all the misgivings or twist 

the formless skin-grey terrors until 

they bleed away into fleeting relief.

Save yourself and the familiar grief 

of picking away and away and away.

To have patience is a virtue—

a thing to muster today. 


You had the intention of release,

scaling my bunk to cup the insect 

in your palm, 

stubbornness and pride mingling on your face. 

I watched you not watching me. 

Maneuvers are delicate, especially these, 

to rescue something sudden. 

Nature always found a way in, 

indifferent to man even if 

in this room there was woman. 

I thought it fit for ceremony, 

watching the lovely thing

lift beyond the window, 

if we might sing watching it take off,

a fragile bundle in the cold cold night, 

so rare. 

Your superstition collided with the 

seasonal infestation, 

the turn of your joke–– lucky us. 

I thought that the upturn of your lips 

creating the word us might crush me then, 

a lunar desert of possibility. 

You crushed the bug instead, a misjudged 

fluke of movement and faith. 

It fell between the bedframe and the wall. 

We had tried gentleness. 

but chance is cruel,

and timing poor.  

You had the intention of release. 


Weird what I had for Wednesdays, 

a midweek inkling for something good,

a fine slick cure to end the night. 

There were whiskeys––there were wines. 

Settled on the grocery Malbec, which was fine, 

I watched the liquid lip the rim. 

Precarious sip. Sour bite. 

My glass-purple chalice, a Goodwill gift. 

The natural ornament for these kinds of bits. 

Dusk descends early now since 

no one’s around. 

I’m clouded by those 

petals I found. You had whatever 

witchy salves, white waxes, 

a spell–– 

it’s good when half the bottle’s down. 

Now the winters in Atlanta are warm,

a nauseous, humid plume of wet. 

(I’m reminded of you bringing whoever around.) 

We never would have made good duet. 

A hazardous minor crashing of sound. 

A drop fell from my lip to my hand, 

a rash red bloom of liquid on skin. 

Familiar sight. Inflicting itch. 

That’s how it was. (Still how it is.)

Felt something sick thrum under the wrist.

You loved the bottle empty as it is. 

In seconds I would trade your hand for this cup.

You were the thing. You were the thrill. 

Something in the throat is climbing back up. 

So naturally I adore you if it makes me ill.

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