The young girl carries a medicine man
inside her gut, close to the fallible spleen.
She is a healer, a vision-seeker, keeper
of many-colored quetzal and jackal bones
that hop into death song when left tied too long
in leather. Buckskin sometimes rots away
and the girl’s stomach becomes populated
with stories meant for the living once
upon that time when smoke shown through
masks traded between grandmas, wild hairs
mapping full circles around loose old breasts.
The young boy carries horses beneath his shoulder
blades, leaning foreheads against a ladder-bent spine.
He is a sweat-slick custodian, a guide toward sand
and flooded caverns that cannot, must not, be traversed
in hours edged close to midnight. Steam and rich-
hooved soil sometimes filters into his waiting lungs
and the boy’s breath becomes the tall, brittle grass,
the miles given over to rutting in newly melted snow,
breath that becomes pungent piss collected in bottles
whenever unbroken mare refuses to hold her heart still.
Kelli Allen’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the US and internationally. She has served as Poetry Editor for The Lindenwood Review and she directs River Styx’s Hungry Young Poets Series. She is currently a visiting professor of English Literature at Northeast Normal University in Changchun, China. She is the recipient of the 2018 Magpie Award for Poetry. Her chapbook, Some Animals, won the 2016 Etchings Press Prize. Her chapbook, How We Disappear, won the 2016 Damfino Press award. Her full-length poetry collection, Otherwise, Soft White Ash, arrived from John Gosslee Books (2012) and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her latest collection, Imagine Not Drowning, was released by C&R Press in January 2017. Allen’s new collection, Banjo’s Inside Coyote, will arrive from C&R Press April, 2019. www.kelliallen.com