Jennifer MacBain-Stephens



Pine and sandalwood wrap deep L bend curves around one needle/ one wood chip / one black
feather assembles ink quill / penetrates pores / one cavity is heart trunk and defends the innocent
/ one husk is snow and strange

the crows compose tea for the ceremony / orange peels and lavender/ chisel a bone handle
/ omnivores are welcome on D street / a beak slashes road squirrel guts /a pinch of cheek marrow
/ a thigh freckle / overgrown ivy garden / discoloration grows all night / evolve mist / c mixes
hops / r rings in hope / o is mouth / w hills and valleys fifteen year erosion / aroma basil grits
down neck mountain / the program on repeat / drips man made salt elements

onto cotton, red blood cells, third crow toe crunch

fine red arm hairs needles / a Navajo weave / airtight more casual Friday eyelash/ the sun fire
jealous pierces a gatekeeper/ blinds brass locks/ the first crow spontaneously combusts / too
much for a Tuesday wingspan

Second act:

heat naked shoulders / over a burner / under the sheets / splayed to darken/ turn over / all crow
eyes closed/ flown the coup / wrestle the sky / latecomers standing room only/ bound to chairs/
closing credits role / cue music cue coffin/ whirligig / desiccate tiny soul memory pieces

One brief intermission / second crow host mixes wind and twig in a cauldron / remembers /
a nuclear mouth welded to a second mouth

Rewind to First Act:

beard teeth grow chin to chin welts / the fourth crow greets one lone crow/ perched on the dead
sea scrolls before the flood went live / outside the watch tower/ caw to six / caw to dusk / caw to
rain / this is the sixth day of the sixth month / clock reads upside down stitch in nine saves one
more soul piece


scent of neck in hair / low chair seat backs mingle sweat on a Ben Sherman tank top
Royal Air Force targets one crow for practice / one to spin dirty neat / Pandora screams petri dish
poser / the alley way is clear for a quick run into the cemetery / tea steeped for one century old
brain smack in the middle of swallowing / how it shines, slides to exit.

Third Act:

a side bar for cohesion
the holes between stairs
the locks over bikes

The fourth and sixth crows hold crusts in mouths / it’s black talon sharpness proud / a new
acquisition / a treat not discovered every day / the chemistry out of this world / mouth bruises
/ large hands / brick thighs the rough voice of the

crow flies through fog never knowing where to land / Crows need other crows / like a
smooth monster skull cracking a jawline / They don’t know how to chop up their life into pieces
/ whirl around like protein powder / catch the dust magic in air / chomp it all to hell / rejuvenate
greenery in winter / begin again two hours later / spin Spring/ Like birds, we have to drink spit
every two hours / crushed by arms / singed by sheets

The crows gather atop the last dead tree on Douglas street / empty wings / Does she commit to
pattern, to ritual, like the crows / make the drive common / Funerals are never the same and yet
always the same / she knows when to pick up speed, when to pump her legs, when to accelerate,
when to turn on the taste / exits split fast like soup / loud music / the signs / the letters / the trash
/ for the birds / when does different become too same / is too same not good / ends with a numb
animal lying on its back


rises up gargoyle-like from below the stair / creates a bed dichotomy / fervor feast / eight limb
octopus party / grabtheslats / smothered twisted rib weight / two fingers down a throat / the only
way he expresses his noise / one arm pinned / she feels like half body under his whole body /
wants more fullness / wishes she could be whole for him / his demon speed always at his back /
the wings beating over shoulder blades / heat to consume / conspire against / when he smashes /
incredibly close / too much to bear / she feels the demons stalking around the room / hovering
over the mattress / prying open her mouth / she spits them out / takes him instead / cannot close
the loop holes fast enough / the clock hands whirl / the heat rising red and orange in her ears / a
freight train tunnel animal and midnight third eye / her arms / broken birds

later / exhausted she can pin him / he lets her / crawl over him / a flesh limb insect / fingers and
mouth to taste / he’s clean now / she wants him rough and mussed / she wants him spent and
filthy / she wants his flesh pried from his bones / arm hairs she wants to tear out / to hear him
scream / the strands like cities too populated / the colors of his skin blend into skulls and wheels
/ the lotus too pretty for daylight transport / the shadow faces throw themselves on the walls
/ like religion / moves like Buster Keaton cinema / the body storm culled / she thought I must be
different / to be here / in this windowless bedroom / with the cemetery outside / she cannot tell
the color of the walls / in the dark / watching herself watch him / who always seems like an
outsider / the fists that clench / the tree trunk thighs / the gravel voice / so much to outpour / so
many stories left on the couch


Jennifer MacBain-Stephens is the author of three full length poetry collections: “Your Best Asset is a White Lace Dress,” (Yellow Chair Press, 2016) “The Messenger is Already Dead,” (Stalking Horse Press, March 2017,) and “We’re Going to Need a Higher Fence,” tied for first place in the 2017 Lit Fest Book Competition. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. She is also the author of nine chapbooks. Her chapbook “She Came Out From Under the Bed, (Poems Inspired by the Films of Guillermo del Toro)” recently came out from Dancing Girl Press. Recent work can be seen at or is forthcoming from Prelude, Kestrel, Yalobusha Review, decomp, and Inter/rupture. Visit:


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