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  • Bower, and: Swallow, and: How to be alone
  • Donika Kelly (bio)


Consider the bowerbird and his obsessionof blue, and then the island light, the acacia,the grounded beasts. Here, the iron smell of blood,the sweet marrow, fields of grass and bone.

And there, the bowerbird.Watch as he manicures his lawn, puts in all placesa bit of blue, a turning leaf. And then,how the female finds him,lacking. All that blue for nothing. [End Page 111]


The first time you swallow—the light, lurid and cold—

you know you meanto swallow—again and again—

a woman’s voice crawling and heavyin your body, trying to escape.

Stay calm. You cannot let go.There isn’t an abstractionyou believe in and you are sad for it.

You need a mission to return to,you need a flock to follow. [End Page 112]

How to be alone

Not that you ever are. The small, roughdogs lie at your feet or warm your belly.Who make bearable all that you mustbear. What needs doing, regularly. Youfear your life without them; the hawkperched on your roof, eyeing thesmaller. The larger, safe for now. [End Page 113]

Donika Kelly

Donika Kelly is the author of Bestiary, winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, selected by Nikky Finney, and forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2016. She received an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. in English from Vanderbilt University. She lives in Northern California with her wife and animals.



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pp. 111-113
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