October 2021 Winner

Baptism in Lines and Punctuation

Madeline Medensky

everyone should know how to handwrite

my mother tells me / like handwriting graduates you

from infancy / like it’s the only necessary thing

and then we went to see / the churning waters

ask for Dee, she knows / how to do that.


Dee says the fence lines / run             wild                untamed

not to blame the cows for getting out.

one cow fell into a hole / ripped stomach, eye-gouged

and calfless, missing itself.

says she had to shoot it: / have you ever shot anything?

ever held a killing round?


things stay with you


she keeps a dreamcatcher over her bed / Dee’s

jelly-jam blurbs with soap / says it’s the best around /

she looks at my coat and / says what i don’t need i buy

strings pulling strings by and by.


high above / the coalesced morning

mother turns her face / to churning water and release /

steps effortlessly in the slow thrush / white-edged teeth

Dee scoops to pick her up / cancer riddling her breasts /

when we liked each other best / she asked: what more can i give (you)?


the green swelters, swats away / as mother’s knees sink

in the heavy-heading water / mouth clear and distinct in

ways it ought to be / mother please just heal.


dogs run at heels in circles / Dee kicks them, they /

shrivel / baptized in the water’s girthy cold /

mother raises bold and full of winter colours / her cheeks

taught red and smiling instead / braced by body’s complacent pledge.


is this life or its edge?


in the sideways thought / that even water has no magic


is this life or its edge?


as mother’s temple-body / creases , diseased — bony statuesque /

i dream of her lost breasts / they circle, enclose me

months after, mother writes a letter /

sends it away with rhododendrons whispering

handwriting falling, slipping / against the white paper-white

while days grieve and Dee’s magic is


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