Katie Richards is an MFA candidate at George Mason University. She is the recipient
of the 2016 Mark Craver Poetry Award and the 2020 Mary Roberts Rinehart Poetry
Award. Her poetry has previously appeared or is forthcoming in the South Dakota Review,
DIALOGIST, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and The Inflectionist Review among other places.


Skin stretched
over over-

ripe flesh bends under
knife's pressure. Halves

apart, green stems
exposed. Unexpected,

not unwelcome. Folded in
themselves, little

brain hemispheres.
This is how

seedlings cope in mangroves,
not the kitchen.

Tune out: sound of bat
as it bangs its way

to death in the chimney. Tune in:
O, Tomato. Too sweet.

Thank you for being
so so so good to us.

At a café I read Montale
when I hear a woman

pray. Oh, God. I miss
that. Last time

I prayed I lost
a pregnancy. Tears fall

on my cheek on my hand
are saline blossoms are thin

sheets set on the line to let sun
rays bloom through them.

Hold me. Please.
I rock my son James

to sleep the season apple trees
dream of branching

life into fruit. His body
presses against me

soft, an orange
peeled of its pith.

During a playdate, my friend's daughter runs upstairs. I open the nursery door. I think she wants to play. Instead, she insists she wants to visit her friend in the bathroom.

My husband pauses as we dress
our James for bed.

Holds his baby soles up,
asks me to feel

them, places my hands on them,
tells me to think about

how they will never again be
so smooth.

Rumor has it a suicide happened in our home. Virginia law doesn't require disclosure unless the buyer asks. Our new neighbor tells us one night while we share drinks around their fire pit. Our housewarming gift. The woman's young son was the one who found her. Her spirit stays with the house, unexpected, but not unwelcome.

Midnight blue interrupts
peace I seek

in sleep. I can't take
my heart beats. Alarm

clock hue keeps me
awake. He cries again.

It happened in the bathroom. No one ever tells me this, but I have felt the sadness there.


Buttercup yellow-lipped and
self-conscious, tell me, how

do you hold it all together?
The imprints of bee legs

stay in your stamen ends
so perfectly. When my son

months old at last collapses
into sleep, I watch him

and think I could smother him.
But this is not me.

But this is not not me.
I sob the entire drive

to work that morning, tears
burst like algae spores

on my lenses. The car's shadow
flickers under sun rays that split

the branches of the pin oak archway.
Tickseeds pin themselves

against the road. I pass a car
overturned in its driveway.

It is not her I feel when I stand
over his crib. I haven't slept

in two weeks and this anger scares me.
If I was a Palm Polly, I'd ask

to go by my other name: Ghost
Lily. All petal and root. Nary a stem.

One embryonic leaf. Monocot.
If ever I buy another home, I will ask

Who died here? And
Is the chimney capped?

I walk away when
the ceiling fan breaks.

Stuck on high, it beats the air
in our room. There is no stillness.

I catch the house number two
houses down from the car

overturned and chant 11501
1 1 5 0 1 1 1 5 0 1

the rest of my way to work.
When I report its location

I am pleased I have such a specific
approximation. There is no one

there, I think, but what if
someone is trapped dying and

no one called for help. Like the time
I drove past a dead cat.

Well, I thought it was dead.
But at 70mph death is hard to call.

The decomposition of a body is the recycling of energy.

Red-centered tickseed
why do you paint

your tooth-tipped petal lips
celestial? Is it to capture

the cosmos in your seeds?
Tell me, how

does Mars feel poured
into the sun?

Red mangrove, darling,
appear to me. Teach me

how to pray. I can't
break this body back into

wholeness. I feel magic alive
late summer when

heat licks leaves dry, and lightning
bugs blink dusk to night.

Blossom your body downwards,
palms opened to earth's heart.

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