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Lily Greenberg


I don’t know if it was a gift—things happen.

But you must have been there that night

between the caramel canyons, before

I had let anyone change me, when the other

girls and I sang Free Falling in the truck bed,

our knees bumping with every dip

in the river road. No matter how we held

the icees, they sloshed red on our thighs—

Tom Petty, can you hear us? Another! Again!

Fifteen deer in the river. We stopped

singing and stared like windows in the wake

of breaking, the house no longer separate

from outside. Headlights clicked off,

but the moon’s mouth kept moving,

like stepping into a meeting for the Secret Society

of Fridge Dwellers, not knowing that people

willingly lived in the cold they created.

But you have always lived in the eyes of a deer.

From them, you watch your feet step lightly

through the inhabited worlds. I’m more like

a doll in a bathtub, occasionally getting my hair

pulled into the drain and seeing through

the black opening: this water is not my water.

What was I to you, then? Silly girl

stopped dead in a world of silly girls.

We held our breath a while. We went no further.

What Form When Vibrationally Open

We came out of our coats and laid down apart.

Bowls sang, and a woman. Her voice

covered us like water, and goats

watched from outside. I slept—

not sleeping, but floating.

When I woke the next day,

my room was old. Hung with yesterday’s

curry and a towel over the door

that won’t close.

Close for me! I pull one door and slam

against another, caught between rooms

that won’t end or start. I am dumber

than any goat lost in the neighbor’s woods,

the only true word: almost.

I want impossible things. A hallway

I can pass through and say definitively

then and now. None of this

spilling, trickling, carrying over

from one life to the next. I want to wake

suddenly taller, longer, and certain

that all of my dresses and pants must go,

it is time to start again.

Imagine—to be completely, for one

moment, not changing, still enough

for blackbirds to think my shoulder

a safe place to land. To stand at the edge

of a tree’s shadow, light

cutting me in two—here is God,

here is not God. Impossible.


So all hundred thousand of us spilled

out of the festival into the streets of Chicago

and sat pissed in a Dunkin while the rain wall

turned the sun off. We snapped hair bands,

toe kicking, every outlet full of charge.

Then we did. All hundred thousand

through mud and front row for Merrill Garbus

taking her head off and strumming the teeth.

“So make a poem like that,” I say to myself. Make it dirty

like Jesus in a dank basement playing with mud.

Dangerous as triangles, more offensive

than Axe Cologne. Make it drunk

punch you up like Radiohead at a wedding.

Make it fucking up. What can’t

language do—this virus, this sponge?

Reader, confetti your party drugs and get sad. This poem

is infertile and sexual as men in flip flops.

It’ll die young. It shouldn’t have. It’s here

to change you, yes you—alone in your window,

are you not someone else now? I am.

Lily Greenberg is a poet from Nashville, Tennessee, and a third-year poetry student in the University of New Hampshire's MFA Writing program. She works as a research writer for UNH and serves as Editor-in-Chief of Barnstorm Journal. Her poetry has appeared in Third Coast Magazine, storySouth, and River Heron Review, and she is the recipient of the 2020 Dick Shea Memorial Prize in Poetry. Twitter: lily_greenberg Instagram: lilygreenberg

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