Collection of Poems

by Anne Livingston

Grand Valley State University

Northern Spy

…Quite susceptible to many of the usual range of diseases, particularly mildew and fireblight.

Northern Spy also takes its time to come into bearing.


Crack the           geode

                                          with your teeth

to swallow honeyed skin

golden jewels spill down your chin

crisp like the first

lie you told

your abuelita. You wish

it could no longer hurt

you ignore snow white’s

lore to keep the meat

down. does it taste

as delicious as you remember?

no, you cannot call her

for confirmation but wonder

if apples

break in the same

tradition of homes splitting


halved or not

seeds swung from Michigan to Mexico


Recollect the first time abuelo

taught you the word hogar

                          —not casa

that old english

wooden mystery

placeholder home so fire

hazard, so log cabin:

ashes on your tongue

you can spit them out now

you can swallow the arsenic instead

claro que sí         you tell your friends

I have a home

the lie means                   less

once translated

so you can forgive

yourself for what

you do not

say, that home is forgery

signing spanglish more broken than spangled flag

striped stars ripped into

              H- O- M- E

forcing your hand over

that bloody beating fruit

the wound you cannot close

flesh made brown only once exposed

hogar carving your heart for a Michigan apple pie

in the house you are not welcome

in the town where your words do not                         mean



Measuring Distance

We drive seventy-five miles in order to scream

me and three locals I nudged

into this ramshackle rental car.

Dangling muffler daring

to snag pavement that tries to kiss it.

These wheels and I do not want to leave the ground:

there is no road-- only a list of what I'm afraid of

a runway built backwards, constructed from fear.


Never mind the wings I borrowed to get here

over an ocean,

the better half of a continent

that bore me;

closing my eyes on every flight

begging hands

to forget the worry

I'd inadvertently slipped into my carry-on

baggage can be such a--

Slight right onto Hawaii belt road.


Learning to maneuver what once was

boiling red

landscape burns my retinas

as if nervous earth has been sucking its own thumb

to swollen pink prune.

Basalt rusting in the heavy heat

oxidation getting the better

of volcanic rock

what does not wilt to crimson

stays black and tortured, magma-made ridges

turn to biting their own nails

leaving some hanging, dangling

threatening to tear tires and poorly-laid plans.

I cannot help

thinking all destinations will demand

I first go through hell.


When we arrive at the cliffs,

the real distance

has not been closed

apprehension a stowaway devil clinging to my swimsuit;

clinging to the edge.

Don't look down,

Danny, spitting

image of the sun,

tired of witnessing masses

watch their feet trudge,

says to stare skyward

instead. But I can't

help it

allow my eyes to swallow

what would (dare I say will?) torture my throat

when surrounded

by what will not

quench thirst.


We drive seventy-five miles in order to taste faith

all the way down

fire in the fall. One way

or another I know my bones

will hit the waves.



Under the Covers

The sheet my daughter called the sky

can't stop collecting holes.


She steers my eyes sore pointing at her find.

Sure enough, the stars are up there:

keyholes I had not noticed,

fissured doors I do not want her to knock on.

Never thought I would instruct her to look at her feet

or cover her eyes to curb curiosity.

But my baby’s innocent fixation has me shuddering:

what other things are like things?


I am not prepared

to explain away

why God is,

or is not,

in the flowerpots.

Heaven forbid—

if there are ghosts among grandma’s chrysanthemums.


And if the sky has been punctured in multiple places,

someone ought to piece it back together.


She has yet to request it,

but I will be ill-equipped

by the time she wants my hands

to sew these tatters.

She did not ask

what happens when separate tears converge—


I’ve started craning my neck to catch

creases before they crack,

hoping my spine will be first to bend.


Perhaps the stars will grant me grace,

and a long ladder,

and the bravery to best gravity.

Since comets are so commonplace;

with them:

wishes for us fools,

billowed by belief,

building flimsy forts for children to play beneath.


Yet, when we laid on our backs

in mossy beds I made for us both

I stopped wondering if

the blanket will fall.

Decided it's a matter of when;

quit worrying

if the apocalypse will smother us tomorrow or yesterday.

Or if I will ever tuck her in again.


The earth will hold my daughter whole,

warm as one of her own.



Down Here

Down here, the moon is the only man who holds me cheek to cheek.

Down here, I look up there, to witness our makeshift waltz in your kitchen.


Down here,

you are pacing my circumference,

in between the stove and the refrigerator

absentmindedly circling me;

accidentally rendering me the sun.

I am spinning to hold you in my gaze.

Our radius is an arm’s length away, but I will not move

until I've decided who is orbiting whom—

if I'm caught in your gravity,

or you, in mine.

Until I’ve decided if this is what I've been looking for.


Because we are all looking for something,

for someone

as wide as what the telescopes we hide behind our eyelids stare at—

all night long.

We are all combing the skies for that first star,

if only out of habit,

the kind that follows us from childhood;

a small girl trailing my thoughts with two braids

and a gap between her front teeth that I could hide inside.


Or so I hypothesize,

arbitrarily connecting the points

between then,

and now.

Playing at constellations,

timelines I have yet to classify as biography or fiction--

not that history can even tell the difference

besides the present, beside your pulling presence.


And we still say we see stars whenever we spin too fast,

down here.

Where we lie on our backs

to reach something like heaven.


Down here, you pace planetary ellipses around me in your kitchen,

down here we play house, make pretend, role-play planets in love with a star.

One of these is true.



Women Are Told What to Do with Their Mouths

Women are told what to do with their mouths,

When and where to swallow

From birth, we learn to open wide

Spooned milky submission, and force-fed silence

Until our tongues turn heavy utensils we do not know how to use


Women are told what to do with their mouths,

I have learned to talk so calmly

dress diatribes in casual skinny jeans,

slide feelings into stilettos, careful though— not too tall, I cannot risk towering over them

The men that are heard in ripped t-shirts, while I mascara every message

cover the contents in Cleopatra eyeliner

To code what’s forbidden so that true thoughts are hidden,

The off-limits vocabulary reserved for anger, for fury; for men

Because they perceive raised voices as raised fists


Women are told what to do with their mouths,

There are phrases here I did not commit to memory,

Yet my mouth is so good at apologies

My lips more adept at accepting blame, than credit

They change shade more often than shape

Red to seduce, nude to disappear, pink to massage his ego, all equally skilled in the art of “I’m


My throat is so full of “I’m sorry”s sometimes I choke on them

Women are told what to do with their mouths,

How to please a man with parted lips,

A heart-shaped hole to blow a kiss,

I remember learning how to moan

I never realized they were costuming us as ghosts

Entombed in our own “oh”s

Never noticed we were making the same noises assigned to the dead

Until it was too late

We should all know the sounds of the spaces between

Sighs and screams

Moans and murders


Women are told what to do with their mouths,

As if we did not know how they work,

As if sooner or later we won’t need them at all


It is no coincidence that we are taught to keep quiet, keep mouths shut, keep ourselves small

No coincidence that the orifice for consumption and creation are the same

Not when we’ve become so good at closing our own traps,

Pruning this rose of a weapon into a closed bud, clipped of its thorns


But, women:

The next time they alert you to the lipstick on your teeth, say its the blood of your enemies, the

blood of tyrants

Remember you know what to do with this mouth

You were born to swallow the sky and sing it back out


Contact UReCA: The NCHC Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity

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