Back to Issue Twenty-Seven.

Gods of August (1977)


Once, when you were being born, someone held open the door
of your mother’s legs, called you by name, and waited for you

as for honey from a glass jar—
                                     in the blackout of my before-life,

I filled my father’s body as he rounded the earth on an oil tanker.

And it was my body. I swear it. I heaved steel cables out of the sea
        and rigged myself to deck lines in squalls.

I charted the stars, scaled iron masts, and watched for land birds.
        I feared this body the way anchors fear a broken chain.
The day we lost our anchor to the ice off the coast of Antarctica,
        someone said: swim down.

If you fall overboard, the ship won’t stop or find you in time.
         Swim down. You’ll blackout faster.

In this body, we’re never not swimming down, my father and I:

we sleep we rise we shit we pray we call heaven whatever comes
        at the end of violence, so we run like hell, keep running

like ‘Lord hates a coward and we ain’t, so we haul on guns blazing

eyes wide faces blistered with fever and night—
                                     someone waited for you, pink crown

pink skin, they eased you into light, held your head like a new apple,
someone let you scream: the body’s first lesson is never not mercy.

Poem for How to Kill the Wolf


—the one that robs your barn, stalks your home, sniffs your door,
the one too fast for a gun, too big for trap, the one that marks

your stables, watches the yellow of your kitchen window at dusk,
wolf that waits for you like sleep, then follows you into sleep,

flooding your moon, breathing slowly, fogging your skin like
glass, the wolf in your furnace, in your flock, in your chimney,

in your well, the one that lies down with you at night, fucks,
and fucks you beautiful, you’re beautiful when you howl, startling

birds and bruising your lungs amethyst, wolf like the slender
smoke of a dropped match, like the morning smell of blackened

firebrick, wolf like all your forks clean, suddenly back in
their drawer, all those careful metal teeth in all those careful

metal rows, it’s the wolf that watches you walk to your car,
knows where the parking deck is, knows the unlit stairwells,

remembers the street corners where there are no cameras, wolf
that snapped its jaws at you in an elevator once when the lift

jammed, the lights flashed, and you looked up at the mirrored
ceiling for an answer, then couldn’t look away from the body that

stared back, what are you that I am, wolf that’s eaten every song-
bird in your chest and preyed away the larger animals, first to

know when to evacuate and last to leave when the damn finally
breaks: —dip your knife into lamb blood, and freeze it. Dip the

knife in, freeze it, again. Repeat until you have a bloody icicle,
then fix it to a stake and drive it point-up in the yard: this wolf

will have no choice but to eat until killed. You’ll be dying
for more before you can stop yourself, expert hunters say,

you’ll mistake your blood on your face for another’s, that blade
burning at the core, mouth-flesh flaming, swelling metallic,

for a heart: meat red, so throb-raw for once, you’ll wish it could
beat as you feed, hammer you to ashes, crush you like rust.




Quarry Myth



M.K. Foster’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in the Boston Review, Crazyhorse, the Columbia Review, Rattle, The Adroit Journal, Sixth Finch, B O D Y, Nashville Review, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere, and her work has been recognized with the Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, an Academy of American Poets Prize, two Pushcart Prize nominations, and most recently, inclusion in Best New Poets 2017. She holds an MFA from the University of Maryland and currently pursues a PhD in Renaissance Literature at the University of Alabama. Additional notes and links can be found through her website:


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