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2 poems by Christine Byrne


Mashing lilacs in the garden – daylight, when I find you – my legs bare –

we taste them – so lilacs are the way we taste –

you’re warding off – a habit you had – the white sheet – an unshaded bedlamp – you used for mothcatching –

you’d keep them in a shoebox I found you – burning wings –

inside of me – feels the way different animals – break clams open – drop, crack, shuck –

you affect me – so this must be affection – the topography – of your company –

I knock on our bodies to check for hollows –

in the daydream I’m pregnant – with moths unwinged – sat heavy – in my belly – you step closer with a paring knife –

we walk past terracotta – pots, porch lights illuminating – tender – in your lobsterman boots – holding

your vialed – pulp –

which you’ll leave on my bedtable – beside the other flower pastes – pressing me against your toes cold –

if you take back – your affection

I’ll pluck the dandelions up – stuff them with the lightbulbs risked – in a laundry sack – I’ll smash the

high hats – yolk the eggs – clip the candlewicks – I’ll leave with all the light – I can carry


At the deli counter I wait

for cold cuts—watch tenders

grind cured slabs

sliver & wrap in wax—

I was jealous

of a stranger touching another stranger

in line I place

my order

I carry my meat to the car

—outside my parent’s house

Phil lays on the damp

blue tarp covered firewood

in his supermarket apron

he takes the markdown gun against my forehead

stickers me—a dollar ninety-nine

playing with the plastic thumb latch

on the screen door handle

—Uncle Danny’s

inside on a corduroy couch telling me

I shouldn’t have come all this way

while mom makes the wrong kind of hushing noises

slapping his neck brace with a kitchen towel

—I help sliver

potatoes—put oil on heat I—beat around

the gas stove—years ago

Danny taught me how to steal

from neighbor’s cars—the first time I siphoned

holding a cut black hose to my lips

I swallowed a mouthful of gasoline

—Danny makes me

mustard slabs of salami for him

set them on the glass coffee table

mom swats her hands in the air—I am making

dinner right now, goddamnit!—

blowing on her face with a tiny battery fan

in one hand, electric knife cutting tenderloin in the other

—on the television

a man playing soccer holds a padded rod sobbing—Danny’s gurgling

burping—I put a straw in a cup & hold it up for him

dab the wet skin bloating over the collar of his brace

—until I pretend to check

on the cat in the back room shitting

pawing the little soak pebbles to hide it

slipping to my old room

—with the broken twin frame mattressless

Phil lets me

run a thumb over his fake

front teeth—in our underwear he bites

my gold italic baby necklace

then calls me a tease

but I lay still on the ridged steel bedframe

—even I know

it’s the first blink that loses


Christine Byrne is an MFA candidate in poetry at The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she won the John Logan Poetry Prize and was selected to read for the Mission Creek Festival Literary Walk


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