Poetry by Joanna Valente

Marys of the Sea


Antelopes run toward in armored florescence
—their breath the shape of faces in windowglass.
You sit & watch starlings make nests.

At one time, humans crawled on hearts greased silver
—left a trail dazzling daughters unborn, surrendering
miles. Killing them with perennials in curried fire.

Wolves follow us through subway cars, their obsession
propels them past honey bones stretched to oblivion;
bunches of lines shaped in half-circles, reaching out for us.

Ten paces away, water dragons devour emeralds
from the hands of children. Their teeth gnash
skin—blood puddles stretch into slanted metal walls.

Above ground, a paper moon wanes west—
making my slender waist more slender: empty nest.


My body wants to die but my brain can’t.
Outside our building, there are cats in heat

that sound like children falling on concrete.

You roll over, fall asleep. Something above me
could have been a man. I saw it everyone saw it

& no one but me saw it but that’s everyone
to me. Told me about a child, my child not yours.

We are two people at the bottom of a fish
tank & sometimes we recognize

each other as open/closed parentheses.

Most other times, we don’t. We read
self-help books to make us passionate

because our heart valves switched off

& things feel bad on the inside now
in new America, my America full

of everyone but me.


Inside rocks fell down subway tunnels.
The conductor has died.
Neither of us knows how to steer.
You say I remind you of ebb tides.
That I won’t go away.
I tell you to get a new wife.
I’m pregnant with someone else’s baby.
I don’t know how it happened.
Someone told me.
I am subway tracks waiting to feel your suicide.
Just pretend I’m the child you never wanted.
Grab the next M train.
Water rushes between the walls.
Concrete holds still, for now.


Flitting between the cars is illegal
but I’m a hummingbird so it’s okay
I can smell your nectar from here.

Someone is playing The Cure
way loud on their headphones.
You say you met someone else.

She’s from the internet. You tell me
to go to the fish market, I’ll meet
plenty of fish in the sea—

I say, it’s the stench keeping
me away. A librarian hands me
a book of poetry—says it’ll be my way

of staying alone. Most words
mean nothing when there’s no
right font for my feelings.


Looking for voices on paper
feel red all over his gummy mouth
starts to take form in my belly
hunger stops when grief replaces
my stomach lining two bodies
in one body sprouting brambles
& birds in my ears becoming deaf
to one history becoming two
histories two souls repeating
the lives of all the souls before this
one there was poetry before this
life lodged between both of us
without the dead I would lonely
be in eastern standard time
when I didn’t change my name
two bodies need two names
& how does abandon form
in building how does a human
form in another human give
away another human to no one
sorceress tongue spews
spells for dead hands to throttle
what I could not inverting
empty on its head X-ray of terror
there were no repeated lives


I take this lying down.
My ragged v—you have already
forgotten me—O Father
guide my blood

to tracks where I can dump
my grief in holes. After years
of fumes I still remember
the smell of burning papers

your face in the negative
space between bush & flame
—midlight. Standing cold
outside my apt

it is still hard to imagine you
coming & going out of me
as you please. You only raped
me once, but what

portion of me died, what is still
distinguishable? So far your face
from mine—all I desire
are godlike

eyes, bigger hair to bring
me closer to heaven.




There Is No G [od] Train Running


You are almost human

I am already naked

You say it happened

Because you have a penis

Don’t do it   

I asked you nicely

Slapped the side of my face

Yr Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 10.37.58 AMtakes away my sound

I am a new version of woman

[ special features included ]

I do not believe when

You push into me

I want you to be

A shotgun that shoots my cunt

Burns like brush

Now is the time baby

Laid on my back

Yr bone lights up

my palms blister

Let me hold something

Let me learn to say sorrow

It will stay in my mouth

Until I mean it

Push out of this body

Like a contract with yr name signed

At the end—showing off

Scarring over yr new salary

You say my heart just needed

A jump start like a Jeep Grand Cherokee

One day when you are older

You will beg

& I will breathe

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