Dara-Lyn Shrager


The voice on the line wants me to know
that we’re not alone—the same rib made her
as made me. There are other operators
in the room; I hear them pricing minivans.
Now she is asking me to pray. What I want
to say: just today, I watched a thousand
dandelion flowers brush sideways across
the flattest, greenest leaves I’ve ever seen.


They did. All day. In the basement where the janitor sips
coffee in a metal cage, where buttons blink red and mops
stand like flamingos, where grey machines hum breath
into this building. Some of the girls sit cross-legged
on the cement floor, tapping at phones with no service,
asking each other questions. Their voices are high and thin.
When it’s over, they pack their books, shrug racquet bags
onto their shoulders and make their way to the fields.
Under this weight, their bodies hunch forward and tip
to one side. Parked where I watch the procession, scanning
for the one face that translates to meaning for me, I notice,
on just this day, how thin the skin on my boy’s face looks,
how much like the shell of an egg, and how open
it can suddenly become. By bullet, by bomb, by hand.


My body is a ship housing three hammocks
in a swaying cabin: one for the heart, one
for the womb, one for the head. The middle
cradle has come untethered, hangs limply
from just one salt-sprayed hook. I dreamt
the baby a hundred times before we buried her
body next to Circuit City. We use a map
to find her: row 21, plot 63. Without a home,
sorrow bangs up against the heart hammock.
The baby left through the pierce in my ear,
the only place I could not hold her in.


Dara-Lyn Shrager is the co-founder and editor of Radar Poetry. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in many journals, including Southern Humanities Review, Barn Owl Review, Salamander, Yemassee, Whiskey Island, Tinderbox and Nashville Review. Her full-length collection Whiskey, X-Ray, Yankee is forthcoming from Barrow Street Press.