The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Cheyenne Black

Nine Ways to Fail at Temperance



I napped with a quilt
until the shaking stopped
but the ends of my shoelaces
still broke into pieces
when I tried to push them through
the holes. We are the fray.
May as well
                make wishes on fallen

as place faith
            in a rescue.


Eyelashes on cheeks don’t count, you said
you have to write wishes on signs
post them on corners with protestors
stand     /up/     for something, scream
until your voice breaks.


Look at the way you push me,
I am excommunicated.
The censer swings away,
its waft an abdication of my body,
where is the congregation going?
Have we scraped the hymnals blank?


Without an eraser, how
can we make art?


The road to perdition,
lined with protestors,
receiving line of objection
shaking hands with the condemned
            register here for the wake-up call.


Why did I ask you to come?
The sound of you rakes me with
the urge to quit. The last time
we spoke you sang the anthem
like a dirge to racism. How can I keep
looking at you on the
last train to lost? And you’ve
got bags.

touch every step
count every nose.
Look at the people under
your feet.


Can I talk to you?
I think something is wrong
with me.

I can’t unfall
and the careen
isn’t fun

because the ground
is covered
in comrades.


Spit it out, you clever girl
winter has come to the bones of me
and he is everything I hate
about myself.

I‘ve engaged in the struggle to survive
the cold. Willful resistance to the poison toad
            and how must it seem

to the younger set, when we leave them
disdain under the tree.

I can’t keep up with the demand—
and how much less am I? The
cries keep me awake. Nail
shut the lid until we can decide if
we’re alive or dead.



Cheyenne Black

Sixes and Sevens

Leave me alone and let me go to hell by my own route.
-Calamity Jane


Like dandelions, like red flags,
before I went to seed I was

dancing in boots in a packed room. I’m
twirling, triggered, dropped into your holster.

See the children waiting in line
waiting to be too big for games.

You’re voice is skilly in my bowl—

Tell me the time
don’t build me a watch.

We kiss. The taste of Ballistol
roars across my tongue like report.

I want the rest of me back
where did I stash the best parts?

On the road to maimery
I ignored the yellow diamonds:

the parts that were hobbled
the parts that were spayed.

You went in through my vanity,
turned my tears to pallbearers,

mala from knots in miles of veins,
beads through my fingers I’m sorry I’m sorry.

I am Pearl Hart meets Eleanor Dumont.
“I will not consent to the governance of laws

in which I have no voice in the making.”
It’s one-hundred-ten degrees under the male gaze,

I went down to the river to pray
sold my self so I could play.




CHEYENNE BLACK serves as the managing editor for Hayden's Ferry Review at Arizona State University where she is an MFA candidate and Virginia G. Piper global fellow. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the anthologies We Will be Shelter and In Sight: An Ekphrastic Collaboration, as well as the journals 45th Parallel, and New Mobility among others. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children.



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