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Shelby Graham

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Danusha Laméris

The Cat

After my brother died, his wife was sure he was living
inside their cat, Rocky. He’s in there, she’d say, staring into
those blank, yellow eyes. Isma’il? Isma’il? Can you hear me?

She’d tell anyone who came by how the cat would slip into their bed,
put a paw on her cheek and just look at her. Or, other times,
crawl under the covers, turning his furred back to her chest.

My brother had picked out the cat when it was just a kitten,
brought it home for his kids. And there it was, still roaming
the hallways he would never set foot in again.

He’d miss driving them to school, making them pancakes,
reading them to sleep at night. So even though he took himself
out of their lives with a single bullet, aimed at his heart, I see now

that if he could, he’d find a way back to those he loved —
not as a ghost, but to walk, again, among them, almost silently
on his tender paws. Perhaps it was the least he could do,

to pad up the stairs, only the heat of his small body to offer,
his cool and steady eyes.

(First published in The Sun Magazine)



Out here, we read everything as a sign.
The coyote in its scruffed coat,
bending to eat a broken persimmon on the ground.
The mess of crows that fills the apple tree,
makes a racket, lifts off.
In between, quiet.
The winter fog is a blank.
I wish I could make sense
of the child’s empty bed,
the bullet hole though my brother’s heart.
The mailman drops a package
on the front stoop and the neighbor’s dog
won’t stop barking. I tread
down the stairs, lightly.
Because we can’t know
what comes next, we say,
The plum tree is blooming early.
There are buck antlers lying in the grass.
A mountain lion left its footprints by the bridge

(First published in New Letters)



Thin buzz of hunger, constant hum,
at night I drape a net around my bed
just to keep them away.
They like the flesh above my ankles best,
and then the sweetness of my face.
The Buddhists say we mustn’t want
to kill another living thing.
How often have I taken one,
crushed it in my palm?

A saint said the lion is in love
with the gazelle it hunts. I love salmon,
so I sauté their bodies with garlic
and butter, slip the moist flesh in my mouth.
And haven’t I bitten my beloved
until a pink stain colored the skin?

A tiny drop of blood is all they want.
Is that so much to ask? And they are so devoted,
groupies at the backstage door,
a band of Hare Krishnas, wailing in the street,
cherubim, playing their small harps without cease
as they are said to do in heaven.

Only this is not heaven.
I dream of a night without blemish
of love without the sting.

But here they are, a mini mariachi
hovering outside the net, singing their same old
high-pitched serenade—
Volver, volver, they cry
the song about the one that got away.

(First published in Red Wheelbarrow)


Danusha Laméris’s work has been published, or is forthcoming in: The Best American Poetry 2017, The New York Times, The American Poetry Review, The Gettysburg Review, Tin House, and New Ohio Review, as well as in a variety of other journals and anthologies.  Her first book, The Moons of August(2014), was chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the Autumn House Press poetry prize and was a finalist for the Milt Kessler Book Award. Her work has been featured by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac and in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. She lives in Santa Cruz, California and teaches private writing workshops. More at

Farnaz Fatemi
Frances Hatfield
Danusha Lameris
Ingrid Lariviere
Lisa Allen Ortiz

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Shelby Graham


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