Issue 62: Open Hands is officially available for pre-order! While we wait for the print copies to ship this June, we're celebrating by releasing select content from the issue.
Up today: poems from our 2021 Broadside Poetry Prize winner and runner-up, Denise Miller and Maria Zoccola.
Nocturne in Black Mother, Op. 2
for Tamika Palmer – the mother of Breonna Taylor
Lungs labor like the flurry
of a butterfly, pinned but still alive. A
live firefly flashes past the screen—
the corner streetlight flickers on.
On nights like this, see her stand
silhouetted at the screen door—
handle warm from her holding,
her letting go, her holding again. Again, she
pushes, leans out, her head
cutting the dark just far enough to see
the screen door close as someone
else’s child cuts the corner toward home.
Denise Miller is a poet and mixed media artist whose poetry has been published in numerous magazines and journals such as The Offing and African American Review. They were named the 2015 Willow Books Emerging Poet, an AROHO Waves Discussion Fellowship awardee, a finalist for the Barbara Deming Money for Women Fund, and a Hedgebrook Fellow. Their work, titled Core, was released by Willow Books in 2015 and has since been nominated for a 2016 American Book Award and a 2016, 2017, and 2018 Pushcart Prize. Their chapbook, Ligatures, was published in 2016 by Rattle Press. Most recently, they won the 2020 Sexton Prize for Poetry, were awarded a 2020 Storyknife Residency, and received a 2020 Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Fellowship. Additionally, their commisioned plays, Ligatures and Before the Shooting, have been produced. Their pronouns are they/them. More of their work can be found at www.denisemiller.studio.
after the holidays at home
before i took the car farther south, i went to the river
to ask what i should do. it was january, i think,
or maybe very late december: bare trees, silvered earth,
wind pressing its cold iron against my cheeks.
river so wide and so bright i could only look
from the edges of my eyes, so fierce
i had to pretend i’d arrived for some other sort
of communion, animal or vegetable, matter arriving
in a safer state. teenagers tramping along the path
were feeding the water stones
and acorns, fallen clumps of twigs, dry branches
heaved underhand from the yellowed grass.
i hunkered on the bank, listening to birdsong
and the sucking gulp of the river’s consumption.
in the dirt below me were hiding a thousand black-walled
burrows, mammalian and packed with heat,
the way it is when a body is tucked inside
its home. do you want me to stay,
i asked the river, but the river gave no sign, unless the sign
was the water, racing down and racing down.
Maria Zoccola is a queer Southern writer with deep roots in the Mississippi Delta. She has writing degrees from Emory University and Falmouth University. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, The Iowa Review, Cincinnati Review, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere.
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