Continental Drift Theory
Donika Kelly

For two nights we slept
as two people who were once
in love: our bodies

settled into one another,
our skin quiet. No quickening,
only habit, and sleep hard come.

Our first farewell, said
without knowing, drowned
by our delight, shared and singular,

in what surrounded us:
the otter smashing some meal
against the pilings;

the little red crabs
sweeping backward
under the boardwalk;

the line of pelicans
cutting low above the harbor.
That April afternoon,

the light bending long
across the water, did I not think,
my love, there at the moment

the ending began like a rock
slipped into the bay?
I’d wanted to fix in my mind

your face, wanted to fix,
at the coast, the slow drift
that separated us.

Difficult now to imagine–
the gesture weak,
the occasion quite late.

Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash

the last time


The Last Time
Donika Kelly

I hardly remember the last time
we touched each other with tenderness:

the evening’s fall, the light dim, the rug new,
our life rambling ahead of us as the valley runs

to the foothills. Surely I called your name,
pulled you close; surely you trembled, our bodies

tangled and damp; yet what lingers in my mind,
what rings so clear is the hot mouth of shame opening

in my gut, awakened by the more I’d wanted: to taste
and at the same time be tasted, to be ridden, to take

inside me whatever you would give. Shame,
in both the wanting and the wanting’s return,

swallowing whatever longing I wanted to voice.
I could hardly know that mouth’s alarm,

gilding the night, was a warning–had assumed
the maze farther south, its center quiet.

Photo by Matthew Kosloski on Unsplash

bedtime story


Bedtime Story for the Bruised-Hearted
Donika Kelly

The trees were all women once,
fleeing a god whetted with lust

until their fathers changed them, bound
their bodies in bark, and still the god took:

a branch to crown his own head,
the reeds to hold his breath.

How like them, our fathers,
those small gods who unearthed

their children with rage,
who scored the bark

and bent the branch
to bind their bodies with our own.

Tonight, my love, we are free
of men, of gods, and I am a river

against you, drawn to current and eddy,
ready to make, to be unmade.

Photo by Alvin Engler on Unsplash

dear –


Dear —
Donika Kelly

We come from abundance, each season
bowed with rain. But here is the earth,
eager to flame, the air like salt, thirsty
even for the water we carry
in our skin. New wanderers in this land,
we do not know how to wait for water,
have never waited so long for rain
that every tree died, left to stand tinder.

For now, I watch the shoulder burn,
drive through the smoke that blots the mountains,
and holds the old yolk of sun. I know nothing
of fire, its reach, its spread, know only
that every body makes its own ash,
manages its own diminishing.

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash