Kelly Allen





Border Loves

Let us thank the hells beyond these turflit halls as we dig and delve. Drag in the fallen moon for a nightly interrogation. Boxed shut by a starving mind, a door is brined by the burn of neon; will the light to speak.

Let us herd creation and ruin past the godlike gaze of the wandering, the confused. Abandon everything, the lot—dwell among the animals, spooned front to back, they dream their caves of heat. Blind the walls, ring them tongueless and true.

Let me remember laughter, the belly and the song. The breast shivers and shrinks.  Nerves and edges, cliff-dwellers are we all. We find ourselves in the face that forms from the pooling surface of our breaths. Blood or light, what does it matter? Bring the walls down.

The tongue is guttered like a wind-shot flame.  The tongue is digging.  It quarries, it preys.  The face flutters and dreams. Edges is all we are, we find each other in the habits we discard, they are old and dear inhabitants.

Mountains are not a road. These children are not the ones that I had lost. The hell I left behind was a desert, Derrida and Bordeaux. Now, my walls are made of grass, a tidal pool of turf. Straw tongues. A moth burns words as through a woolen rag. Dig and delve.

Creatures dragged to the side of the road. Their shadows close on me, guarding the fury of my anklebones, the flagging whatnot of my skin. I stand at your surface, entranced, measured, with a line of chaos. I hold no other narrative—not even a boat.

Where did you come from? So many have died. “So stand over me and finish me off for I am in agony and barely alive.” Oh ye tongues, drum me on home. I will give up a kingdom for salt. Jackdaws and ravens, find your resting place. Not one of me is absent.

Let us keep on the pilgrim highway. In cross-examining the moon, say, steal no more than you need: a fork in the road, the lot that no man should land in. Say, I am wool. I am the moth eating up the wool.




sumac leaves      rowed       slowly      to the ground       she took it      as a sign

     the way      a warmed-up cup of tea      set      on a cold formica table

loses heat       and mushrooms      deprived of light       learn to glow in the dark

     you know       disorder reigns

she wore her jeans       through      at the knees       the kitchen light

     pulsed blue and cold      through the table      chair

through mandelstam’s dead bees      days parted

     from one another      root      by root       the silence

buzzed hot inside the hive      a world      hung languid in the sumac tree

     she stopped speaking      sex cries       prayerful       tongues

once anchoring the night       stopped all of it      and rode

     the withering crawl of winter to the gut

she fed on willow-bark      survived

     to early spring      when black-tails       goshawks       chased

her shadow      gleeful       over the fresh-turned fallow field

     she had plowed it with an old boar’s head      buried the skull

inside a cave       but the field remained       dormant       though the sumac leaves

     greened      and silence no longer buzzed within the hive

she climbed out of her skin

     and walked with a man across her field      found the boar’s head

it would not stay buried      considered the skull       its fallen grin

     the man’s quiet promises       soft leather of his skin

meanwhile      the sumac reddened       bees turned to their hive

     she burned the tree for honeycomb       found mushrooms

moon-white      heads balding bright       so she let herself go

     an owl screeched       the field on fire      fell into the cave

where water flowed       (the world would not stay buried)

     blackening the cavern floor      mineral salt phosphoresced

ceiling to wall      for everything       must have an edge      that lives

     she bartered with the man       gave him honeycomb       chanterelles      le pain

sauvage      and salvia      for scraps of red in leaves       the solitary bell

     of breaking glass      inside the cave       a little light remained

long slender fingers      pale       but good for more       than words      rode hard

     and reckless beneath her skin      the way       light travels

trapped     in rain



Born and raised in the Puyallup River valley of Washington state, Kelly Allen lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her partner and their young daughter. She teaches writing and literature in the Comprehensive Studies Program at the University of Michigan. Her work has been awarded, among other prizes, the Hopwood Major Prize in Poetry and the Meijer Award. A chapbook, “Woman in a Boat”, chosen by Robert Creeley, won the Poetry Society of America’s New American Poets Chapbook Series in 2004. Poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, Verse, Arts & Letters, Rivendell, Oleander Review, and elsewhere.