Despy Boutris


She is not the fire but the smoke.

She is not the fallen spruce but the ground.

She is not the cricketcall but the echo

of the cricketcall, the steady screech

persisting even in sleep, unable to flee from.

Even I want to flee from her, and she is me.

Like disease she makes a home in me.

Of me. She smells of exhaust, and dirt

perpetually stains her knees. She knows

there are men out there who want to sweep

her off her feet. They want to love her,

to try their luck with her. She wants to buy a bus

and drive cross-country on her own.

To cut off her feet and sew them back

straight. She wants to be brave enough to speak.

She wants to speak in first-person again.

To say what she’s thinking: I want to be brave

enough to speak.


This meadow
used to be our meadow.

Now       in the raindrizzle
at sundown
my fingers grasp
fistfuls of grass, yank sodblades
from sodden roots                          
and crush clovers in my grips. 
A plane jets overhead,
toward the lantern-
light of the Moon,
and braids into gray clouds
soft as autumn gossamer,

and I’m warring
against this whirling, twirling
to keep alive,
for that butterfly
still flutters in ribs
where every bud
(of every flower)
blooms and blossoms
like a bruise,
where threads aren’t unra-
veled, where trusts aren’t bro-
ken,        where wings
(and hearts) aren’t torn,

              where our landings
aren’t       crash landings.


after Stevie Edwards

In this story we’re middle-aged, sitting
on the shoreline in the rain, the tide
more hiss than hum. Like crabs, our feet
burrow in the sand, toes flushing
in the cold. You turn toward me, start
talking about the past, that lunar eclipse,
the year the mustard blooms bombed
the hillside. In the beginning, you say,
I offered to read your palm
just so I could hold your hand. The wind
bellows, telling the future
of an incoming storm. We start
making a mound, cupped hands full
of sand, and it feels good to make
something together again. In this story
we’ll go home and assemble root beer
floats and watch the sky turn to fire.
We’ve lived long enough to know
how beautiful flames can be—sunset
a whirr of reds. We know the value
of these little moments: this breeze,
this seaside, sassafras root, the past,
this hand, reaching out—

Despy Boutris’s writing has been published or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, American Poetry Review, The Journal, Colorado Review, The Gettysburg Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Currently, she teaches at the University of Houston and serves as Poetry Editor for Gulf Coast, Guest Editor for Palette Poetry and Frontier, and Editor-in-Chief of The West Review.