Back to Issue Thirty-Five

Ars Poetica with a Pick in Your Hand


When the beans are piping hot & I want to keep them that way
I cover the bowl with a bowl: a perfect circle. I’m not suggesting

our future is inherently round. Rather, anything can be
a roof. Remember when we first saw this place? A hole

in the ceiling while it snowed. We had to scrub the whole place of roach
​​I painted this room myself & when my right hand went limp, zinging

at the wrist from overuse, you washed every dish, finished whiting the ceiling.
In this way, we keep the steam in. We split the last can of seltzer while outside

strangers threaten to smack each other. I know how that ladder
feels leant up against the stove—a lightbulb has to die

for it to be born. My whole life, I was like that.
Then, your hands.

I serve you garlic-doused beans while the moon nickels
the window & just for a minute, we glow with the purpose

of ordinary things.​​ Four flights down, someone knocks over
a trashcan so it rolls into the street & the bus is

already honking nonstop at a driver double-parked & blocking
the night from happening. You free a dead bulb with a wrist’s twist

& across the block, a stranger’s light flickers on,
their kitchen manifests, a silhouette decides on olive oil

or balsamic or wine, I can’t tell. But the body
of it in their hand is as real

as in mine, so I put the air to good use & run the bathwater
thick as a book for you to bury your bones. Oh,

every shape longs for correspondence, just as each lupine
deserves its hummingbird. Where the world was once

concepts, now it’s a shared tangerine that riddles
our gums with gems. I accept

no other religion. As I write this poem, you rake a comb
against your skull. We

argue the knots awake.


Shira Erlichman is a poet, musician, and visual artist. Born in Israel, she immigrated to the US when she was six. She is the winner of the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry and a Lambda Award Finalist.  She has been awarded the James Merrill Fellowship by the Vermont Studio Center, the Visions of Wellbeing Focus Fellowship at AIR Serenbe, and a residency by the Millay Colony. Her work has been featured in PBS NewsHour’s Poetry Series, The Seattle Times, and The New York Times, among others. She is the author of Odes to Lithium and the author-illustrator of the children’s book Be/Hold: A Friendship Book. She lives in Brooklyn where she runs Freer Form: A Portable Creativity School, connecting a global community of writers. Learn more at

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