about the author

Nikki Wallschlaeger lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is the author of one chapbook, Head Theatre (2007) which etched itself out of her palms unexpectedly. Her hands continue to talk, which is why she writes. Publications include Nervehouse, Esque, The Smoking Poet, Pirene’s Fountain (forthcoming), and Word Riot (also forthcoming). When she’s not writing, she plays the djembe drum in a radical community marching band, The Milwaukee Molotov Marchers, with her partner and son as a form of symbiotic exercise.

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What If We All Huddled Together Like Penguins

Nikki Wallschlaeger

for all creatures who take long walks & return


Delectably garbed in species of throat. Of walking the workplace past, with half-trust half-life buried in 15 years of first loves. I still do. In my last city, we need help. But I want to get away from rescues. Wear out my fur with Antarctic phrenology. We don’t know the word for backlash, so I am introducing you as me because sometimes I tire of my own lanceolate face after you admitted you tended your own like pasture sheep. Our mass index. Thermoregulating. This is the hooked squid we shared for brunch. How much of me & you is tentacular now, the most recent cycle of bothrium reliant on our allopreening. If I had a dollar for every surviving kinship capital couldn’t exist, the fool in our arcana would be applauded and wouldn’t be named for the fool.


Feel my hands. It’s begun, single digits for 63 days, and in May, I’ll graduate. For once I am babysitting our tobogganing colony drunk on nouns: there’s nothing remedial about their sincere hylozoism. I have shoveled three times to make room for more. Our babies prefer slide whistles to orangutan deployments, krill cabaret to breadfruit. If there ever was a time it would have to be now. Turns out the romans invented Sugar of Lead, the first of artificial sweeteners. Casa dei Casti Amanti. No wonder my doula smacks our flightless arms away: his otherworldly senses overseeing the diet cola archipelago, the newest trash islands off the coast of California. Pelagic betsy wetsy doll pathologies drowned on shorelines. We’re helping the fall of the empire by buying snuggies as gag gifts. My preemptive apologies.


It began with a radial sneeze. Lead acetate of the Pacific shook with our waterbirths. We’re a safe distance away, but we can’t be certain since my mother has cancer from dioxins in Virginia. We do not make a nest. We do not make a fire. The salpinx lining of an austral wind after shoulders relax. How the industrial old timers screamed when our helix circle doubled up with new frequency bands, soft spectrum fuzz out of eggshell white. He kicked at the nurses. A litter of conjoined puppies in Bhopal, India. A girl’s horse miscarries two foals in Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island. One soul tries to steal a baby to replace the one s/he lost, so we shield her by sharing children. Long crèches of coastline black are dias de los muertos. I’m lighting oil lamps, & we’ve digested plenty of fish. We’re looking for Sedna & her severed fingers because we’re trying to cut ourselves off from the next hedge fund cluster bomb: our houses boarded up, we left, coming here. Huddled together like penguins.

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