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Wyvern Lit

Four Poems

Poetry by J. Bailey Hutchinson


after Christian Anton Gerard & Heather Dobbins

and make me tall, Miss, so I may locate casserole dishes.

govern my water consumption in reasonable cranks,

turn leek-long the grass to bury my doorframe in

sucked-onion-scent. and Miss, please tighten your

hold on my grandmother Barbara, who visits

my windowsill in many shapes (luminous beetle,

cat with active glands, wine). I

am afraid of her. and Miss, drown the heart that quickens

at a good glance, at a long sigh, at a slice of summer squash left

on his plate. drown the heart that quickens when he loves me.

drown the heart that quickens his quickening

then frights dry as opened gourd. Miss, I know I can die

alone, Miss because I’ve come this far on my own, crushed every

fiddleback I’ve found though I know

they lived here first, but Miss, I fear the soup they make

of a lonely knee so it’s me (purpling worker, thick

with liquid) or them (solidified nightmare claw),

so Miss, make me more endurant in thirst,

and if that means you shape my limbs,

bend back the joint, taper muscle-and-meat ticker

tape thin, all swaddled in dun-fur, I’ll reckon it a blessing.

be newly coyoted—Miss, banish

the house-shapes: curt pile of mouse shit, ghost of my grandmother?

bone-knife rusting in my sink, ghost of a man’s desire?

shatter of moonlit rosemary, ghost of a thousand spiders? and still

the onions, I underestimated, it’s probably

an unreasonable amount of onion, plus I

don’t want to give Barbara—dog-jawed and dimpled

with moonlight—a new place to hide. Miss, for this, I offer

the longest of my birthdays. the purple I tend.

and Miss, I offer the garden,

I offer an opal boiled in the stomach

of a rabbit and sealed with fat-cap, if,

Miss, you’ll only make me tall.




“Please note: The symptoms [of ADHD] are not solely a manifestation of oppositional behaviour, defiance, hostility, or failure to understand tasks or instructions.” DSM-5

“For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: and though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man who, being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply.” William Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads

Standing with my mother beside the bumper boats at Bogey’s Celebration Station and Minigolf, a woman asks my name and I say coal-fattened serpent which is a lit and vibrating thing which is a fish-school frantic and rubied which is circles and circles and circles, and I, brimming, near bite through each cheek, I say opening spiderlily which is a fractal of tongues which is a thousand yellow-birds which is a bat-bulked steeple which is an eel, some engine moltening in me, my right palm cat’s-eye supergiant my left palm shuddering barrel of quartz,

and when the doctor pinched coin after coin of blood from the tip of my finger which is a screaming carrot on fire, she’d said well isn’t this a little squaller while I slicked my mother’s hands with all of my body’s musterable liquids and my mother said baby sit still which is a badger chewing matchsticks which is a stovetop which is a carpet of nightsoil and cave-cricket, and the doctor said well isn’t this a proper thunderhead, does she sleep through the night, does she ever sit still, and my mother said baby sit still,

and in the line for bumper boats my mother says my name and leans down and I leap, she leans down to my head and I leap, she leans down to kiss the top of my head and I leap, I put her teeth through her lip. And. She holds. My mother’s arms come around me. Even as I boil. Even as I pulse. Even as spilled swim-bladder which is accumulated dollop of sap which is liquid which sticks which is inside a bird inside a gas giant which is blood on my scalp, which is my mother’s exploded mouth, teeth two pearls in a red bed, which is deconstructed willow-weeper which is a nest of purpled popsicle sticks, she holds. Even as I become a jar of furious bones. She holds. My head a walnut in the quiet vise of her chin. Swollen grape in a lionsmouth. 


me and my entire life stuck fast on I-40 between panting semis and sedans bikes chattering

like rat-jaws all of us filibustered in the soy fields because some unseen gridlock couldn’t

wait until the highway’s third lane opens near Beebe to sit down I’ve taken off my shoes

in the reddening daylight a family stalls their van to stretch to save a little gas the kids

carousel away from the car kicking at jigsaw glass and tire-rinds when they spot a shape

scudded to pulp on the shoulder a jammy pillowcase all fur and flies the bigger one’s face

does a centrifugal pinch like a dumpling’s peak-point and I mark his mouth dog he says not deer

I don’t know how he knows but I imagine I do legible ear one unsullied leg they’re gathered

back to the van and forty-five minutes or one mile later we see the beached eighteen-wheeler that held us up blackened as catfish in the median I don’t have anyone to say shit to so I say shit out

the rolled-down window am beaten in the breath by something creamier than exhaust what

did I want it to be why is it worse to learn dog not deer why did I read the child’s mouth

when I knew I didn’t want to know why did he have to tell his brother at all I remember

when I was little our gentle wolfhound allowed whole hands in his mouth but all my friends

lillied when they saw him even Mallory bigger than me who one time hucked her kneecap

back into place while I watched one day I stepped outside and saw the dog’s nose butting

between his paws who screamed me or the dying thing at his feet dog not deer I touched

his tongue he let me traffic thins and I lose the van the flats fizz up into points of shale

shortleaf pine dark purpling the drive behind-my-belly is one end of a bungee cord the other

end sunk in a stray’s grave when Mallory asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I said

dog not deer dog not deer dog not deer




“ this day, in ordinary conversation, it is usual to add the endearing name of little to everything we love: the French and Italians make use of these affectionate diminutives even more than we. ...A great beautiful thing is a manner of expression scarcely ever used; but that of a great ugly thing is very common.” Edmund Burke, On the Sublime and Beautiful


M says the neighbor’s house

is burning and I do not think

but the rabbits but the cat I take

my macbook and shoes outside

the heat and conical reach of it

like red-piked lupine we

have not got rain in weeks still

I have not thought but the rabbits

but the cat I do not feel absolutely a thing

but my eyes hungry for the house’s taking

the melting roof-glass the porch’s fiber-optics

its kneeling joists will the house entire

bow forward we wonder will it crush the new fig tree

my car our small colony how shallow

this worry while our neighbor in the bluest

t-shirt feebles sweat on the curb we didn’t

lose a thing but sleep the rabbits dumb with smoke.


When the first litter dies I ask will you

still undress their bones M halves

a sandwich which I eat badly which becomes

a beard of tomato-fat he says no says

what a little bit of skin this is coffins them

in compost and we drink a can

of something M says possum or raccoon even

our own half-eared housecat might unbury them

the neighbor’s house a black and ruptured

bellows we have taken to peeling for the firepit

still the block a reek of cookout another

something this town has been strange to me.


Goddamn M says goddamn mama rabbit

sat on the second batch little sallow germs

lidless bodies like small fingers mama

doesn’t want to kindle she’s thinner in fact

than when we got her she bites a hole in M’s hand

when he reaches for the dead things cussing

her mouth red like fire like lupine and we

drink a can of something another something

the neighbor’s house a strange burnt town

another something I didn’t think

about the stiff slip of see-through skin

or that some things can be born dead

another something I haven’t ever

been this thirsty mean and drunk I

put on my boots mean and drunk I

pick up the rabbit cut out the heart.


J. Bailey Hutchinson is a poet from Memphis, Tennessee. She is currently pursuing her MFA at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, where she is Poetry Editor for the Arkansas International literary magazine and on the Board of Directors for the Open Mouth Reading Series. Hutchinson is the winner of New South's 2018 Poetry Contest, and her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Front Porch, LIT magazine, Beloit, Nimrod, and more. Full publication and contact info is available at