Salamander 2024 Fiction Contest

SUBMIT: May 1 through June 2, 2024 | READING FEE: $15


Portent with Moonset & Blackbirds

Kelly Cressio-Moeller
| poetry


For a long time I wanted
        to drink a cup of winter,
                to become tipsy on early
                        dark & longer starshine.

The thinning light
        my favorite ether.
                These days I am uncertain, dead
                        reckoning my way through—

surrendering to mystery &
        surprise of mapless navigation.
                That fistful of blackbirds
                        thrown across my wind-

shield? I don’t know what
        their flurried wingbeats
                were trying to tell me;
                        not every moment is

a teacher, in the same way patience
        does not mean measured inaction.
                I’m only a woman who con-
                        tinues to bury her dead—

wearing a clenched jaw that expects 
        diamond dust from the crown crush;
                shoulders that ride so high on worry,
                        they mistake themselves for wings.
I’ve never liked what I was
        called, even though my
                father named me &
                        my name in his voice

was the last word I’d hear
        him speak. Last night, I
                went to bed feeling hope-
                        less & profoundly lonely.

I left the curtains open wide.
        Sleep plowed a ragged field of un-
                even rows—but in the morning’s
                        early darkness, the fullest moon

poured its cool, bewitching light into
        the small bowls of my room & garden.
                As it hung impossibly low over
                        the Pacific, I drank & drank.

The phrase "For a long time I wanted" is from W.S. Merwin's poem "After School." 

Kelly Cressio-Moeller’s poetry can be found in Crab Orchard Review, Gargoyle, North American Review, Poet Lore, Radar Poetry, Southern Humanities Review, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and ZYZZYVA, among others. Her poems have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best New Poets, and Best of the Net. She is an Associate Editor at Glass Lyre Press.

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