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Lorrie Ness

Both Sides of Grief

Belly breath,

a twin to every inhale I ever took

in yoga — hands folded above my solar plexus,

my back an archway above the floor.

Next, a slow exhale through this entire stretch

of asphalt. I speed across a bridge,

my knuckles knobbing along the wheel

as I drive home the final time

to empty your house. I remember you

that first day dead, how I cleaned

pink froth from the carpet where gravity pressed

your breath into the ground — where I found

your finger still curled around the steel trigger. Warning

signs blur as I toe the accelerator.

Caution Passing Zone. Do Not Enter.

I merge the car to the left,

& take the bypass as I did a month ago.

Today, it’s the same highway ferrying me

to your house, then the funeral. I focus on dodging

traffic cones, taking my first breaths

without a tether — mom. You were not

a coward like people claimed. You left me

proud of your resolve — choosing

bullets over pills,

splatter over sleep.

Where you once held

the muzzle snug against your solar plexus,

a mortician has laced your fingertips

like fabric to clot the wound underneath. I too

am bullet torn. I should be gasping. I should be

sobbing, shuddering & charading my grief.

Instead, I purse my lips,

smooth my hair, & blow out slowly

in the side view mirror.

After ten miles with the windows rolled down

my cheeks are red, my eyes bloodshot

but I have not yet cried. In the chapel

I twist at a tissue,

pray that even God won’t know the difference

between the blush of tears & the scarlet

of burning wind.


The wrap of skin without holes

is claustrophobic.

It keeps me poking

my way toward a glowing red

exit. Lips parting

in the night air. Leaned against

the brick wall behind the club,

She’s another one

I stagger past. Her smooth stomach


below her halter.

My fingers would play her

like a record without any scratches.

No crackle,

no pops, just a shallow groove

& I’m listening

for a warmth that comes

from depth.

I’m not saying I live life looking

for a wound,

but I appreciate a good scar —

filled, but not quite

level. You are

a ghost guiding my palm across

a percussion of seams

where things have joined together

again. I ask you

what you saw inside your flesh.

You tell me loquats. You tell me

locust wings.

What Comes to Light

moonsight | after twenty minutes

steeping at the edge of the wood | eyes learn to massage

shape from shadow

at night | color is reduced

to the flash of fireflies & memory | i test my recollection

open the album on my lap

polaroids | of second grade

silhouettes | scrubbed clean by the starlight

i remember my dress

hunter green velvet | the bodice

a second skin | cotton leggings & patent leather barricade

christmas cold

stage lights | the glare

from the first row | mom in her beige suit & dad

perennial blue

children’s choir | harmonizes

oh holy night | silence upon waking the morning after

to flakes

of dried blood | mom stripping

my sheets & pillowcase in her slippers | says it’s nothing

she can’t wash away

the truth lies | in the flashlight’s beam

my bodice was burgundy brocade | it was dad who had been the hunter



Lorrie Ness is a poet writing in a rural corner of Virginia. When she’s not writing, she can be found stomping through the woods, watching birds and playing in the dirt. Her work can be found in numerous journals, including THRUSH, Palette Poetry and Sky Island Journal. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2021 and her chapbook, “Anatomy of a Wound” was published by Flowstone Press in July of 2021.


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