Back to Issue Forty-Two

Voicemail from La Jolla



I left the party to call you.
I wanted you to tell me your California theories.
The false collective of the freeway,
time unspooled from units. It didn’t seem
like something I could figure out intuitively—
how the past penetrates
the present, and present flows back
into the past. Amniotic pulse of traffic.
Erotic blush of bougainvillea.
My best friends at their beachside weddings.
Two dead sea lions on Solana Beach, swollen but intact.
Womanhood felt like an incorrect container.
But it might have also been the future
which appeared ill-fitting.
You didn’t pick up.
I walked out to the Pacific,
crouched beside a tide pool to examine
a sea anemone. It clenched around my finger. 






Rachel says I have a hungry ghost inside me.
That my generation doesn’t know our own history.
By the harbor, men walk together in muscular pairs
and for some reason all I think about is death,
death at the maritime cemetery, death
at the dispensary with gangly adolescents,
death at the sex shop where I run my hands
over the harnesses and leave, purchasing
nothing. Death as dusk hits clapboard houses.
I thought by twenty-seven I’d stop going places
for the story, as if stories were simultaneous
with action, rather than events recollected
incorrectly, rife with holes. My character wades
waist-deep in the bay, waiting for a revelation.
I want the plot to start here, at the end
of the two-lane highway, and in the moon-
like dunes, the scrubby grass she trudged through. 



Madeleine Cravens is a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She received her MFA from Columbia University, where she was a Max Ritvo Poetry Fellow. She was the first-place winner of Narrative Magazine’s 2021 Poetry Contest and 2020 30 Below Contest. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in American Chordata, The Kenyon Review, Third Coast, and the Washington Square Review.

Next (Raphael Jenkins) >

< Previous (Jalen Eutsey)