about the author

Joanna C. Valente was born in Manhattan, New York. She attends Sarah Lawrence College as a MFA candidate in poetry writing. In 2011, Joanna was the recipient of the American Society of Poet’s Prize. She is also the founder and editor of the magazine Yes, Poetry. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Thrush Poetry Journal, La Fovea, The 22 Magazine, among others. In her spare time, she is a mermaid. She can be found at her Web site.

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The Hermit (IX)i

Joanna C. Valente

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All mothers eat their children. All children drink their mothers.
My mother is grass growing from the underside of a rock,
hair tucked away from her face except for one strand,
constantly falling when she talks about hiring a new babysitter.
Her body no longer holds the many possibilities ahead
before the children.

One day, I had come home from school knowing there
was a sickness in my gut. When the doctor asked me where
it hurt, I pointed. Bury it in the soil, he instructed—there was no
chance unknowing. Dying children are only getting lonelier.
No one likes children but that doesn’t mean you don’t
have them.


Something’s coming out of my ears—ink or shadow?
I can’t make it stop. A little blue bird is fluttering around inside
my brain, plucking out memories until my post-nasal drip
is white noise.

In Sunday school, love was taught like blueberries
baking in crust: let simmer & don’t eat it all at once.
I always ate too much until my plate emptied. I don’t want
to go, but I am alone in this feeling. Left to carry it gracefully
until I’m alive in someone else’s memory.

i The Hermit Is the Threshold Guardian
The Hermit Reveals Monsters Between Slants of Sun

For forty days, he lives in exile.
Sleeps in a sealed cave, staves off

the forest’s beasts—descendants of
Dionysus. He smells peach blossoms

from inside rock. Carves devotions
into his thighs. Nobody knows how

he came to be: chanting
Otis Redding, all prayers

turn Google inside body, clutches
old dog bones instead of eating:

anything to be empty. After forty
days, lives in a house with no furniture.

His neighbor a woman, red pen
circling mistakes—shedding skin

June-fast in white linen, lizardly
blues humming in grass.

Peggy in twilight dances a lighthouse
inside, a ghostly snake

/// eggs hatch ///

a medusa with a million mouths
regurgitates slugs & raspberries

in jam, jamming TVs to sleep—
Lucifer’s limbo half-cut by a hot

knife. He prances in jags, screams
pens screams I love you screams

paddle—buys a weekend pass to visit
good-time Jesus. Medusa’s mouths

suspended in amber: triangular
negative space, aka the human brain.

String-lights bubble up stairs
as he walks—pillbugs scatter

& the lighthouse flutters orange.

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