Rhiannon McGavin

Rhiannon McGavin has failed the California driver’s license test three times. Her work has appeared in The Believer, Teen Vogue, The Los Angeles Times, and more. She is the author of Branches and Grocery List Poems (Not a Cult). Her Irish and UK editions will be published next year by Doomsday Press.

ars instapoetica

Despite the reports, baby girl, you have not killed

literature with your uptalk, your online diary, the rooms

you built from words inside the black & white glow of

your palm. You deserve each letter

& the space to sound them out. Here is your city

of stanzas. You can decide every ribcage is

a bird’s nest, a full moon. Walk at night anyplace

you want, the street lamps are reserved for you

to weep under. Every window you pass beams

with another girl’s pulse, your windows linked

together, the wires crossing your neighborhoods

like a cat’s cradle, a thousand thousand arms

reaching through the globe.

                            The audits said

it’s overplayed to sit & cry on the fire escape,

mascara running a slow mile on your cheeks,

but fire escapes help you escape fire, whatever

you want to call the burning in your days.

You post the names from the railings

so everyone else can hear it too.

Staircase wit

It’s spring & everyone’s joking

about killing themselves again. You’re getting better

at moving through different cities without your eyes

tapped to the blue dot of your being

on the phone’s map. Anywhere you go

it seems you just missed the cherry blossoms,

dead receipts of petals on the ground,

but you’ve never had a cleaner sense

of direction. You’ve got a face to make

in the mirror to check that you’re cute,

a preferred way to transcribe your laughter

over text. You’re at the age where you explain your politics

naked about once a week. You are of the age

where the mass murderers also grew up

with mass murder drills. Traces of carbon-14

thread the cells of everybody you’ve ever known

& everybody you’ll never meet because you’re alive

in the same world as atom bombs. Born as you were

into real life at the top of the century, the future’s headlines

rise as water or ash or something else hard

to breathe through. You know what to say now.

You’ve heard it’s too late.

Self-portrait with your leftover hair

Every time, my Gd, like

I’ve been delicately

mauled by a werewolf

like there’s a telephone cord

wrapped around my arm

down the lengths

of my legs, typewriter ribbons

and tuxedo threads teased

into spirals until anyone can see

that I am your tipsy maypole

that every black apple stem

twisted while reciting

the alphabet to find

the name of your future

lover ended up

under my blouse

along with the alphabet

in ink and the bumblebee

stripes of your stubble

and all the licorice curlicues

on a topographic map

to mark just how deep

this ocean goes

Yes yes even when I wash

my own hair, I find

these muddy tomato sprouts

tangled on the shower wall,

cursive in a language

I am learning

again I sound out

the dark scrawl of your postcards Wish

you were here you were here


Every time I find these cypress shadows

and what sticks to you when I leave? The same webs of sun?