2020 Poetry

Kelly Grace Thomas


I empty the day
like a bottle. Toss, try
and truce this body
mine. Ours. Body,
you, a river, I name
and rename. Last year wobbles
on her soggy bones. Tonight, I spill

for you. Confess my father
was a heavy pour. He raised me
in song. Our family, a vine
still weeping towards sea.
We couldn’t drink
the body out
of us. And isn’t water
another way to say
body? I practice tender
in the mirror. Quiet
my hips, curved
like a quotation mark.
Bless, bless, bless
these elbows
and anxiety. All these bones
and brackets.

Body, I walked to Arkansas
to say I’m sorry
for the distance and the diet
pills. I’m sorry for the silence.
Maybe I just needed to write you
from somewhere new. To thank you,
my quiet parenthesis.
To promise: keep me
and I’ll keep you.
My steady
grammar. Listen,
this rain needs a bed.


Outside my window a crow
circles what it can get.
I’m three nights from love.
Always between here
and home. Six service
stations past self help
stereo hum. Omid
means hope. I’ve never told
a prayer that. Out my car window,

the wheat fields kneel
for water. We learn
landscape. Trapped
inside. Today I read
the most important thing
a father can do
for his children
is love
their mother.
This is not that.
Not the prayer
where I help myself. Not
the prayer where someone
says sunrise and I talk
story. Not the prayer where I know
what to do with silence
besides pass it
on the left. Maybe

one day. For now
I measure the distance
between the men I’ve loved
like a country
still thirsty
for rain.

Kelly Grace Thomas is the author of Boat Burned, released by YesYes Books. Kelly’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in: Best New Poets 2019, the Los Angeles Review, Tinderbox, Nashville Review, Sixth Finch, Muzzle, DIAGRAM and more. Kelly has received fellowships from Tin House, Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing, Kenyon Review Young Writers’ and more. Kelly is the Education and Pedagogy Advisor for Get Lit-Words Ignite, a youth poetry nonprofit. She is the co-author of Words Ignite: Explore, Write and Perform, Classic and Spoken Word Poetry (Literary Riot). Kelly is also a screenwriter and novelist. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband, Omid.

2017 Poetry

Kelly Grace Thomas


Tonight I walk in an orchard
of low gods.
Prayers rot just beyond
fingertip preach.

I climb the trees bowheaded
in hush. I sweat silent

I want this body
to do what history oathed.

After the bloodwork,
I church my voice.
I altar my lips.

Force faith to be the only alphabet
I vowel.

Lately every please
I pocket
has lungs

tinier than mine.



She told me: pain needs a witness
knowing, once or twice, the fruit of me
has been peeled.

Under this dress: eggs and arms.
A one-eyed doll:  births
and breaks.

I live under shell cracked sky
sleep with undecided bones.

Female: a storm I first noticed
in the clouds.
It has taken all
of me

to rain
this hard.


Kelly Grace Thomas is the winner of the 2017 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor from Rattle and a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Kelly was also a 2016 Fellow for the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop. Kelly’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in: Nashville Review, The Boiler, Sixth Finch, Muzzle, Rattle, PANK and more. Kelly’s chapbook, Zersetzung, was a finalist for the 2017 Lorien Prize from Thoughtcrime Press. Kelly works to bring poetry to underserved youth as the Manager of Education and Pedagogy for Get Lit-Words Ignite. She lives in Los Angeles and is working on her debut novel Only 10,001. For more of her work, visit