POETRY February 2, 2024

Two Poems

anything that is fourteen lines

is about you :: the bald spot on a widowed
man’s peak, sunned a sapsucker red :: you are
bruise red centered in silt grey tonsure :: an opened
mouth :: an opened chest :: an adolescent hare braced
against sidewalk :: all the bottle flies suckling
the final pink of its small intestine :: you
the collective :: you trillion eyes :: prismatic
former maggots pulling meat from rabbit’s bone braid

—beloved, today i spoke to the river about you.
told her you are her milky equivalent :: a gosling
white flood receded. the river wants to meet you.
the river wants to check beneath your skin for sunfish.
the river wants to know if the cornsilk :: cornsick yellow
:: hurricane in me is stilled by the pink brash of you—

anything that is fourteen lines 

is secretly about my mother. don’t let the cardinals
or the murky bodies of water fool you. when i sent
you work about the songbirds, i was telling you about
how thick the stitches on her stomach were. how
serum and blood would bloat them, and ooze through
four sets of sheets. if you ever received that packet
of ocean poems in the mail, they were all about the
summer i was freshly sixteen—or was i fourteen—
potentially i was twenty—and her retina detached.
the summer she wore the svelte purple eyepatch
to match the ocular bruising and when my uncle or
one of her boyfriends offered more than soup or brief
visit, said “no, only Sydney” or did she say “i only trust
Sydney”—“only she will” or “only she will do it right.”

Sydney Mayes is a poet from Denver, Colorado. Winner of the 2021 Iowa Chapbook Prize, her poems have been published in The Iowa Review Blog, The Atlantic, Denver Quarterly and Prairie Schooner. Mayes is an MFA candidate in poetry at Vanderbilt University.
Social Media: Instagram: @sydney_gabrielle_mayes