Caitlin Thomson


I know the life I had is soaked –
like a book puffed by water, no longer honey,
nothing that has been sung
about before. To think I used to be swollen
with pride about an appearance I had nothing to do with,
reckless with friends as if any stranger could be one. Till I was pinned
by my own loneliness in this box of glass, pressed against
a photo of myself that was no longer myself, because of time.


The land of longing has a name, I keep it in my suitcase
even though I no longer live there. Still I have the raw strength of it,
a quiet breath between storms. Still there is wind
wrapping the walls of our house with noise and sway.
Still there are men somewhere examining the bathrooms

of women and declaring them sinners. I sin every morning,
according to their laws. I set an alarm for it. I swallow
it with water, and right now it is free, but soon I will have
to pay, not for the sin, but for the option to bleed less.

They don’t really have a problem with that, a friend said,
it is the killing of something that is already inside you
that is the problem, the tadpole, not the possibility of life,
unwatered. But they keep trying to take away the tools
that keep everything dry. I believe in the father, the son,
the holy ghost, and I don’t think they would believe in this.

My body keeps me up at night with a stomach
that hasn’t worked since childhood, with a tailbone
that my daughter gladly broke during her exodus.

My body doesn’t belong to me, it keeps different hours,
and now even the small territory of control I have sought
for myself, strangers can take away, strangers
that will never meet me, that cannot smile at my child
as she counts to three, who cannot scoop her up to release
the anguish she feels of a new tooth blooming.

Caitlin Thomson is the co-founder of The Poetry Marathon, an international writing event. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals including: The Adroit Journal, Rust + Moth, Barrow Street Journal, and Killer Verse. You can learn more about her writing at

*golden shovel poem after “if you knew” by Ellen Bass