The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Kelli Allen

The tortoise shell maps every star


No bull knows the thickness of its own rough horn. Some
blue jays steal only the scarecrow’s left foot, and like us,
he is left leaning too far against husks. There is a war

In the attic. Hounds’ jaws lining baseboards,
silk windless in every corner, hemming
shut what we leave open each winter.

Disregard bundled egrets. We know better
than to trust feathers or beaks in tessellation.

The zodiac is a tablature you pocket for storms
at sea. When two calves are archboard painted,
the closest shore will never be to the east.

I have flown the absentee pennant, not noticing
moth appetites until both sun and setting moon
cooed pinpricked lights across unfurled backstays.

Barley and snakeroot in the same barrel means
jealousy, indicates reluctant shepherds will gather
both at dusk and in the softer curl of virgin morning.

Let’s not go on pretending that disquietude is anything
chaste. There are miles urged open past this undertow
and we swim steady, siphoning wind, aerialists in the salt.



Kelli Allen

All I can see burning, and no reflection


Robberies are often quiet.
Our hands are in the air
while we sleep and the silo
empties twenty grains
at a time. When the chamber
echoes a hungry belly,
we pay attention only
to how deep our cups, how thin
our woven mats and cricket
high grass. I wonder

at nobility. There are four crowns
for taking, sacks open over
the well’s lip. Remember
when everything after
the saddle meant asking
to be wanted? You, too, are Teiresias—
the staff you hold burns figs
as they leave branches to baptize
some sand too long in the sun.




KELLI ALLEN's work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the US and internationally. She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and has won awards for her poetry, prose, and scholarly work. She served as Managing Editor of Natural Bridge, is the current Poetry Editor for The Lindenwood Review, and holds an MFA from the University of Missouri St. Louis. She is the director of the River Styx Hungry Young Poets Series and founded the Graduate Writers Reading Series for UMSL. She is currently a Professor of Humanities and Creative Writing at Lindenwood University and teaches for The Pierre Laclede Honors College at UMSL. Her chapbook, Some Animals, won the 2016 Etchings Press Prize. Her chapbook, How We Disappear, won the 2016 Damfino Press chapbook award. Her newest full-length, Imagine Not Drowning, will be released from C&R Press January, 2017. Her full-length poetry collection, Otherwise, Soft White Ash, arrived from John Gosslee Books in 2012 and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.



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