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Linda Bryant Davis



Got married in red

velvet. Not bright like a clown

nose but like blackened

cherry, old blood. Grandma

warned: Marry in red, you’re better

off dead. At birth


my baby breathed 30 fragments

of air & like teakettle

steam vanished. Cheap

apartment carpet red. Tattered

theater curtains in two tones

of claret. Red like rust


nibbling the old Blazer. Mom

delighted in the streaks

of cardinal flitting in the hospice

courtyard through the bending

willows. I remember her last

hours, how she stared


at the sunset before the morphine

trance. I was in the electric

shock of divorce. Red hues

comforted me. I said yes

to crawdads in the shiny

vat, to the eruption of flame


maple & beetroot. Lucky

as a cornsnake who sheds

her vermilion skindress, I stake

my claim. I breathe. I am

not Plath. Not Sexton 

or Woolf. I stumble still 

into mudslides of heavy

heartedness. I gather

myself like a disheveled

bouquet, red

tinged petals




In my family we didn’t show

the underneath, nothing


that trembled, everything 

hidden by crisp


cottons & mohair

cardigans I could stretch


over my little-bit

too-big stomach & down 


to my kneecaps. That one

time I ripped the rear


seam of my madras

shorts, my back


side & underwear 

exposed. I shuffled


from Dairy Queen straight

home, five slow


blocks & I crouched

down so I could stretch


my sweater past

my bottom. I looked


like a crackpot but I

revealed not one fleshy


patch of my bottom. My mom

was over 70 the first


I saw her breasts. I eased

her out of her lacy

Maidenform after the surgeon

removed an acorn


sized tumor.  With a yellow

striped rag I washed


her back to the tail

bone & sponged


her underarms. They brought

to mind the tenderness


of a sliced peach. In tears

she said, I hate


for you to see

me like this, but I


was relieved, overjoyed

because finally she was


human & I was — without

blinders — taking care of her.



It was before the starfish began

to disappear, before open

sores boiled on their bright arms

causing them to crumble. You hurtle

down the bouldered slope to the rough


beach as low tide offers its damp

surprise of limpet & sea squirt. You’re 10

& believe the sassy eagle orating

above us. You name him Between Two

Worlds. Sea star wasting disease


is rapid, within three days their arms

break & disintegrate to a flimsy mush, warming

seas a cause, or a virus. Perhaps oxygen

depletion. For you, son, a changing diagnosis

like a dance floor strobe. It’s bi-polar; no,


it’s anxiety, underlying Asperger’s, definitely on

the spectrum. Try Xanax, Prozac, Depakote. Son,

when you recover, no more night terrors. Emergency

room interventions gone & the adults who broke

your heart apologize, every single one. When the sky


flames to jasper red I’ll drive the pickup 

up the mountain. You’ll wiggle into your Spiderman

pajamas & recite your favorite creatures: periwinkle,

barnacle, giant octopus, squid. While nodding off

you ask, Mommy, are they called sea stars


or starfish? Both & even more—brittle star,

basket star, la estrellade mar, I answer. I tuck you

in with your  blue tattered dolphin & kiss

your forehead, once for the generous & splendid

day we’ve had, twice for all the stars in the sea & sky. 

-from Between Two Worlds, selected by Assistant Editor, Karen Carr 


Linda Bryant is a poet and journalist who lives in Berea, Kentucky, where she runs the Owsley Fork Writers Sanctuary. She has been published in literary journals including Courtship of Winds, Whirlwind Review, Gateways, Serving House Journal, and Willawaw Journal. Bryant has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and has won two national fellowships for her writing. 

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