Photo by Jeff Sirkin



When you drive you don’t talk

so I pretend your mind is the Polly Pocket

I longed for all of 1993—those T.V. girls

so cool with their pink pocket dollhouses.

I would snap your brain open to investigate

each room aerially. Maybe find tiny

bob-haired girls you never mentioned,

a deleted text, your slyest lie, other plastic clues.

But you insist the silence is due to men’s

inability to multi-task. It’s true,

my mind moves like passing grooves

on a guardrail at highway speeds. Forgive me,

but the uncertainties are endless. Like,

is multitasking a skill written into DNA?

Are those T.V. girls married with children

now, or was child acting too much pressure

and they cracked? Do you wish I were more

like them—blonder, smaller? Will I ever

erase Polly from my psyche? And how

close are we to crashing? Is silent driving

a sign of romantic doom? And if we all

stopped on the off-ramps to have a BBQ,

would that be what world peace feels like?

And is love just a replacement

for having the answers to all of the questions?


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*** ** ***



Outside our apartment two owls coo from separate trees, reaching.

I’m up from a dream where you left me strapped to a surgery table,

you had pressing shit to do, couldn’t be troubled to stay. This is to say,

you’ve been filling me with such nothing, parts of me are falling off.

In this dream where you left me, I’m strapped to a surgery table

and strange men discuss how best to remove my left breast, infected

by what you’ve been giving me— such nothing. Part of me falls off

on the floor. The men don’t notice and I don’t scream, I only plead

with the strangers—deciding how best to remove my infected breast—

to stop, to wait, it’ll heal on its own, I won’t let it spread

to the core. But the men don’t notice and I don’t scream. Please

roll over in bed and look straight through my eyes to inside my head

and don’t stop. If we wait, it won’t heal on its own, it will spread between

us like cracks on a frozen lake, swelling our mouths shut like old windows.

Roll over in bed. Look straight through my eyes to inside my head

and you’ll see I am here lying open, waiting for you to come back

unfrozen. But the window between us swells shut like an old mouth.

Outside our apartment two owls reach from separate trees, cooing.

Do you see? I am open. Lying here waiting for us to come back

from this shit. We could press through the trouble. We could stay. Say it.


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*** ** ***



Some time ago a boat started to grow around me—wooden

beam here, curved slat there—without my notice, so I sat

& floated farther, farther out to sea. Water knocks on the slick

wood, salty & calm. I can’t say how long I’ve been here, but I see

other small boats around, ebbing, people counting

on their fingers. We’re a strange fleet. We are here, & there

is the land. Light glints off the water with the sick-

pretty tint of a late-night computer screen. Somedays I cast a line

down to see what I might find: aluminum cans, mucky

reports, a faded to-do I wrote from before. We have lost

our knack for estimating how much ocean there is between us

& land. A boat near to mine has a child learning

violin, I hear him practicing—minor triad, perfect

triad—so I know I’m still alive. Sometimes there’s yelling

from a few boats down, parents I guess & a baby crying,

I can’t pray so I sing, hoping they might hear. It’s easier

to watch the people decorate their masts—strings of beads

& colored fabrics—than to watch the shore. We are all watching

the shore. Even the flock of seabirds that has formed

near me (I read somewhere they’re called a rookery,

a rookery of albatross), they’re wading & waiting. It’s easier

when someone chuckles, from far off, just a chuckle

that swims from boat to boat, the people silent smiling then

grinning then giggling, then we’re all laughing,

even the rookery, all laughing & watching for the land

to laugh back.


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*** ** ***



There is a field of briars,

& in the field                  there is a well

& in the well                 there is a voice.

What if I squint,                 & see nothing?

I reply.                                No echo,

no water,

no self.

I could run        screaming,

but it’s after noon,                   & my sister’s

been conferring                 with her demons

all morning                         –blue-lipped,

muttering                             their slick


Deny to the death

they tell her.

She pulls

at her freckles,                  her thinning

hair, she paces                                     her kitchen

linoleum,                                                she tries again.

I’m not high,                                                    she says.

I squeeze                                             my red eyes,

I press                                   my hot face,

I don’t cry.    Then tell me

again, I reply.

My big sis,                 who used to fight

bad-guys for me—                  ghosts & warlocks

knew her name.                         Big sis, who I called mama

more than once.                             If Meth was the bad-guy,

I’d push a blade                   to his throat til he broke,

I’d draw a bath                     and watch him drown

in a foot of water.             But, the bad-guys

are in her now.

Tell me again!

I yell at the well,                        but it’s no

exorcism, no saints                         or rosaries, just me

versus my sister’s                              slick new team. Outside

her kids echo the sound                     of sirens in the distance,

throw their voices                         like lassos at the sky.

& the well                     in the field

is a liar.        & the well in the field

should mind its damn

business. And the well

rises now, hard to our eyes

with a thousand stones

we had been drowning

with & in & though drowning

now our hands are on the spring.


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Lizabeth Yandel
is a writer and musician based in Los Angeles and originally from Chicago. She is currently a poetry MFA student at UC Irvine and a poetry reader for The Adroit Journal. Her poems are either published or forthcoming in Rattle Magazine, Lumina Journal, Popshot Magazine, Nashville Review, BOOTH, The Pinch Journal, and The Los Angeles Review.


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