Back to Issue Forty-Six

What I Know to Be True



A gallon of water weighs
8.3 pounds. Seagulls
are always hungry.
My daughter’s name
is Nova. I am a mother.
I’ve lost a mother.

It happened so slow:
she became less and less
as the red of chemo ran
through her blood.

It happened so fast: chosen
by the birth parents a month
after paperwork. The blinkless
doctor saying Stage Four.

Then the moments
that hover—fog over the gray Pacific:
My mother’s hands, liver-spotted
against the pink ocean
of Nova’s newborn skin.
Her voice caught
in the last chorus
of Row, Row, Row
Your Boat. I’m not sure
I’ll ever forgive.

My mother kept a gallon
of water next to her bed.
On good days she practiced
picking it up. One day, she said,
I’ll be strong enough to lift her.

Kelly Grace Thomas is a poet, writer, educator, and an ocean-obsessed Aries from Jersey. Her first full-length collection, Boat Burned, was released with YesYes Books in 2020. She is the winner of the Jane Underwood Poetry Prize and the Neil Postman Award for Metaphor. Kelly’s poems have appeared in: Best New Poets, 32 Poems, Los Angeles Review, Muzzle, Sixth Finch, and more. Kelly has received fellowships from the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing and Kenyon Review Young Writers’ Workshop. Kelly is Head of Curriculum for Get Lit – Words Ignite and the co-author of Voices in Verse: Poetry, Identity and Ethnic Studies; Stanzas of America: Celebrating BIPOC Poetry; and Words Ignite: Explore, Write and Perform Classic and Spoken Word Poetry (Literary Riot). Kelly is currently a Blackburn Fellow in the Randolph College MFA program. She lives in Benicia, California with her husband, daughter, and sister.

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