person Kelli Allen, poem

Kelli Allen’s work has appeared in numerous journals/anthologies in the US and internationally. She is currently a visiting professor for Rutgers University/RUNIN, in Changchun, China. Allen’s new collection, Banjo’s Inside Coyote, arrived from C&R Press March, 2019.


Groundhogs at the DMV, testing the curb

We all exhale thick ash when the troll
curled warm in our belly belches lunch,
tucks her knobby arms under her head
and flattens spine-to-spine against space
our mother called that wicked posture.

This bitch we carry, the one whose name
has been Stacey from the beginning, rides
in the passenger seat of every car we hope
will glide over the roads, windowpane-smooth,
connecting bridge with asphalt that turns
gravel to dirt and ends with a week at some lake
bass stocked and mosquito free.

How is it, then, a wrecked dye job atop
squat forehead and chinless profile signals
means to escape when the convertible door
slips shut and Stacey waits, clipboard pressed
to flapjack breasts, for us to put the metal
beneath the pedal and we just halt, stunned

by our eyelashes in the rearview mirror, by
our wet bottom lip fresh licking an agreement,
by years of hesitation now poured concrete
in our sweaty boot and we cannot move—not
forward or back out of a parking space unmarked,
uneven, and in a town we cannot even name?

The truth is, there are differences between
cave and mountain trolls and childhood lessons
only map marriages and simple diagrams for wart
and flat-ass versus orbital rump. The second us
sleeping until its super is a variety the bestiary
hides in the appendix. Every Stacey roaming
the DMV is one newly born, damp from our own
laze, her fingers cradling the brown score sheets
while our hands, used to guarding stomachs, grip
a steering wheel all over again, the test every-
day repeating, hiding what the seatbelt keeps safe.


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