Fall 2023 • Vol. XLV No. 4 Luminous Gender Vessel |

Self-Portrait: A Triptych

And after Draped across the foot of the bed, some mute thing wrecked down to my constituent parts. The animals that come to live as my body —  the stomach and leg and lung and mouth —  they rest with no mind to govern the slackened limbs, the automatic breath and blink. An I razed in twilight, wasted by your hand, by your mouth, into a wet slick of salt, clean against your tongue. What can I be but a patience in this blueing dusk? What can I do but wait to return to myself Watering Hole About the animals that gathered, the tortoise, the yellow-headed blackbird, the girl huddled at the center, an animal with a bull in the brain. A wonder: she didn’t scream when your hand found my neck, finally closed, cupped the edge of my breath, my breath running like water, a cataract over your tongue. Didn’t scream. Didn’t raise the father over her head, her girl-arms trembling. Didn’t break him over her knee. But sat by the water, breathing, mar

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Photo of Donika Kelly

Donika Kelly is the author of The Renunciations, winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in Poetry, and Bestiary, the winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and a Kate Tufts Discovery Award. A recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Kelly is a Cave Canem graduate fellow and a founding member of the collective Poets at the End of the World. She currently lives in Iowa City, where she teaches creative writing at the University of Iowa.

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