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Gary McDowell


Fiercely-lit, a body like an algebraic equation

set sideways, its hills and valleys, a nationstate

of numbers, a sine curve like a river’s rift.

Bend, look closely: What you see is not what


you get but rather who you are. Breathe beside

me. Part of gazing out is gazing in. Submerge

me, the body says. Everything preventable takes

shape too quickly. Reach in to each other’s mouths,


pause, linger there, moisten, gather loose stones

to build a shelter, an awning—what is it that

you think is at stake? We began, each of us

as a strange swelling, a coursing through like a bird’s


wing shuttered against a humid night. There’s silence

and then there’s everything else. Leave me there.



All the feathers form the down. In other

words: This is the theocracy of an apple.


When I shot through the birth canal, a swarm

of wasps, I broke something that wasn’t mine


to break, a pattern I’d repeat well into my forties.

Is this what wisdom feels like? An ache behind


the eyes, dull like a dove out of a February-window.

Every time a bird appears, take three steps back


and lose an adjective. The Meta-verse failed. If

half of marriages end in divorce, then the other


half end in death—it’s still unclear which is more

preferred. Sorrow is often mistaken for lust, or maybe


it’s the other way around. Either way, the shells

are full of seeds. There’s a color—the inside


of a dragonfly’s wing in direct sunlight—for which

there will never be a name. We call this, time.




A love letter to my shadow and the shape

the city trims as we walk hand in hand

past downed trees and trash piled.

What’s inside echoes loudly what’s outside.


The most beautiful part of a body

is the way in, the reverb between

the bee’s wings as it hovers over and beyond,

its tiny body wind-blown. Seeing clearly


is too full a miracle—we doubt it because

our own bodies collapse—or swell but not

more slowly—and we wave as we rush

past them. A body is a thing that is its death.


There are a thousand positions of rest,

but only one gives way to what we make of love.

-from a book that does not yet exist, selected by Assistant Editor, Karen Carr

​Gary McDowell was born and raised in suburban Chicago. He earned a BA in English from Northern Illinois University, an MFA in poetry from Bowling Green State University, and a PhD in contemporary American poetics and creative writing from Western Michigan University. He lives just outside Nashville with his family and is an associate professor of English at Belmont University. Gary has published several books, including Aflame (White Pine Press, 2020), winner of the 2019 White Pine Press Poetry Prize; Caesura: Essays (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2017); Mysteries in a World That Thinks There Are None (Burnside Review Press, 2016), winner of the 2015 Burnside Review Poetry Prize; Weeping at a Stranger's Funeral (Dream Horse Press, 2014); and American Amen (Dream Horse Press, 2010), winner of the 2009 Orphic Prize for Poetry. He is also the co-editor, with F. Daniel Rzicznek, of the SPD best-selling anthology The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry (Rose Metal Press, 2009). His poems and essays have appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Nation, New England Review, The Southern Review, Poetry Northwest, and dozens of others.

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