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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Ocean City; Maybe Antelope; This Body Is Not

By: Amanda Hartzell

Ocean City

Outside the dark is a whole mouth

of the sea. A vacation car on gravel moves

the teeth. If you’re hungry enough for taffy

you can eat through one mouth into another

and your teeth go bad at some other age

an island and a spoken life away.

In that one, curtains. In this one, fat starfish

waving hello. The hotel holds sand and ladies

slippers in pastel frames. All the rooms

identical except for the chlorine children,

so alike they go for pizza with different families.

At night awake with lamp posts we visit fortune tellers --

we’re so bored and hopeful. We’re so smooth and

devastated. There is light on your eyelids like I

have never seen. From the hotel window

a crowd creates ruckus on the shore. If you squint

you can tell it’s just one person, breaking bottles.

Sand is very small glass and August tinier, especially after

we find the stingray rotting in the froth. Fly in gulls,

white and black. They descend on boardwalk fries while

immobile glorious leeches cheer on. If you know

someone who’s drowned, do they ever swim

back to you with ice cream?

Maybe Antelope

This place is full of antelope who will sit and eat

popsicles with you. They are better than cats

and way better than your first

boyfriend. They are better kissers 

even but cold because of the popsicles. It was

the Fourth of July seven years ago 

and we must startle awake, remembering.

Firecrackers shiver in the field glowing in 

plastic. If you light them they scream. If you

don’t light them they scream also. No one

is waiting for you to do anything. Have you

met the antelope yet? Not all of them are

antelope. In case of prairie grass fire please stand

on all fours and keep blinking the shapes back

into your eyes. Make a sound like a person.

Try your best to be still and maybe even real.

This Body Is Not

This body I came with is really doing

a spectacular job. Cleaned itself

this morning, sat poking the soft flesh.

Made orange juice, made a joke, took itself

into the garden to remark how bright and green

things were, not exploding even though

we could only hear the explosions. The body

wondered if instead it could feel good and

conducted experiments, many involving hair,

before determining yes it could. It ranks pleasure

on a scale of expected-to-blistering,

and that’s nice I think, that the worst pleasure

can be is expected. Bullets and a throat arrive

in the garden, new friends. We show them out

and give directions. The body has now decided

to engage in salutes, escapades, missteps, regrets,

feats, apologies, strategies. If you squint it looks

like dancing, ice cream, moonlight.

If you don’t, it looks a terror.

You’d think this would take some time

but it doesn’t. Hardly anything does.

Thinking about anything is the most exhausting part.

While the body is briefly occupied what’s left of me

goes out and traps a yellow bird with a box. The sound

it makes shut up inside lets me know it’s real.

The shaking lets me know there’s a sound, and

that the sound is packaged in the shape of a bird. The body

is not interested in gifts, so it says, but this is not a gift,

no promise or comfort. Just listen. Just watch.

I open the box slowly while the body watches.

Inside is a shape of a bird

but it is not a bird. It is the explosions.

Think carefully, says the body from its shape

like a body, if this is the story you want to tell.


Amanda Hartzell received her MFA from Emerson College in Boston. Her work has appeared in New Letters, Paper Darts, Midway Journal, and The Knicknackery among others. Her stories won the Alexander Patterson Cappon Prize and finished as finalists in Glimmer Train.

Originally from eastern PA, she now lives in Seattle with her son, husband, and their dog.


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