Adam Tavel


Sometimes when I’m winding the orange
extension cord around my arm I hear them
chatting about weather while they dress
down the hall. Once I heard weeping
and found my male lead, nude in a puddle
of tears and snot, lacing his boots
cross-legged on the floor, still hard.
This basement hears two thousand
species of moan. Each shoot’s sheets
bleach whiter than poached tusks.
When my wife surrenders, snoring
inside her sleep mask, I slip inside
my laptop headphones to edit out
the whispered lines I fed, my easy
implausibilities no one can remember.


              for Jacob Quaker

We hunched inside the boathouse floodlight glare
to measure what we caught. Thin gills fluttered
like tissue paper by an open door.
Eighteen inches. A keeper. You squished its head
inside the clamp atop the butcher board
and sunk your point until you felt the snare
of bone. I watched as crisscross shadows bled
rosy down your hands, nephew, and on guts
you flung across the grass. Though dull, the blade
filleted straight through the tail. The gray wet meat
you held up to the jack-o-lantern light
rinsed white inside our pail. Your grisly feat
complete, I flipped the fish no rainbow made.
No pupil now, I knelt to bear the knife.


Adam Tavel is the author of Plash & Levitation (University of Alaska Press, 2015), winner of the Permafrost Book Prize in Poetry, and The Fawn Abyss (Salmon Poetry, 2016). His recent poems appear, or will soon appear, in Poetry Daily, Crazyhorse, Ecotone, Meridian, Southwest Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Gettysburg Review, Tar River Poetry, and Sixth Finch, among others. He is a professor of English at Wor-Wic Community College and the reviews editor for Plume. You can find him online at