Tanya Grae: Four Poems

South Charlene

Boys on my street plucked wings
off damselflies, primary and metallic
like matchbox cars and pocket heroes.
Bees melted in mason jar chemistry
while laser beams smoldered ants
into glass-magnified wisps of smoke.
Little cruelties, this carnage, torsos
writhing on concrete—my girl legs

running. Idiots, the lot, but gods
of summer and our block, traveling
only so far. Before kids were prey
and sun was cancer, I was out til dark
for months wondering how the boys lit

the moth circling on a ten-speed Schwinn.


There Are Days

When he doesn’t know
what he hits inside,
Mema and Ms. Kincaid
both exhale Girl

in their long, throaty curve
that clatters the windowpane
so loud my eye twitches.
Mister, you have no idea

the patience I house.
It drips the walls, ambers
like Smyrna bees and
glues me in chrysalis—

a furtive knit against
what bruises fruit and space.
Thou shalt not murder
but a hard ball cracks

where no one sees.
There’s no count
days when there are
just too many.



Just as I heard his truck on the driveway,
the glass slipped from my hand, vertigo

like I’ve never had it. Knowing how
the night will go: his three minute hate

disguised as hello, no kiss, and two beers.
He will sit in that chair and rail the evening

newscast, when the war is already here.


Gypsy Elegiac

Mema, the summers you sewed
stitched our time together loose
from the box trucks and crossroads
of those military moves.

Dutiful, I dealt with six
universes when they burst,
as gravity shrugged and quit
like a vacuum in reverse.

We lived as dolls pretend
while worlds collapsed and reset
the promise of home and friends,
the shapeshift of what to expect.

Your months unpacked my shoulders,
laden and freckled, subtle
like dim glitter, like the mold
tyranny of should and must.

Chlorine burned almond eyes
in the Moose pool, as tears drowned,
if nothing else; I baptized
by swimming toward a sound.

It clarified the mill throng
of feet in Gaussian blur,
the roar and thrum-pressed bomb
in utero, with an urge.

A birthday. No lit candles.
The white sun like a lighthouse,
like a train tunnel angel,
bright ahead and the way out.

Water glimmers like cellophane,
wraps like resin dimension;
what is outside of pain,
if outside one’s attention?

Eve sends her jolt down the line
against the fertile seasons;
I surfaced into Time,
and the rest has no reason.