about the author

Kate Wisel lives in Boston. Her fiction has appeared in The Drum, Mad Hatters’ Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Fiction Southeast, Compose Journal, Corium Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, and her poetry in The Altar, The Blotter, Philadelphia Stories as “Editor’s Choice,” and Neon Magazine where she was nominated for The Forward Prize. Her poem “Special Sauce” won Mass Poetry’s “Poetry on the T” contest. She was awarded the Keach Prize at the University of Massachusetts Boston and earned a scholarship to the Wesleyan Writers Conference. She will be an MFA candidate at Columbia College Chicago in the fall.

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Three Poems 

Kate Wisel

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Fourteenth Summer

It starts with the lemons.
Your best friend knows everything

about sex—à la Cosmo. How unafraid
you are to change

in broad daylight. She squeezes
fresh juice over your head then prays

for bright, violent sunlight
splayed on a wet, black trash-bag. Inside,

baked and different, she searches
for scissors, tweezers and Cutex,

neon polish, older sisters, glossy pages:
six tips on how to get loca loca.

With a senior! Later: laxatives,
you pass out on a track field,

wear push-up bras
as outerwear, go together

everywhere. You’re twisted
closer, like Pull ‘N’ Peel Twizzlers.

She tilts your chin up
in mirrors, slips a needle

through your tongue, holds you
still, fries your hair to wisps,

cuts it, plucks peach fuzz
from your tummy trail. If you’re friends

for now, she’ll tell you
it won’t hurt much. If you’re friends

forever, she’ll break
your nose straight.

Making Do

I make another shoebox
for five years ago. I stripe
my old yellow bedroom
with a Mr. Sketch, draw in wallpaper
with precision. I make closets
with cardboard, bend back
paper clip hangers and sew finger-size
dresses with nylon. I arrange
Alyssa on the rug, leaning forward
to paint her left toe black. Did you borrow
that sheer top?
I shake her
head between my fingers. In the kitchen
a mirror from a button is propped
above the sink and Raffa’s wooden
face is in it, rolling her eyes, doing
all our dishes. Jess’s sprawled
on the couch watching TV, the box
I shellac with a cut out
from Us Weekly. I douse her
with Light Blue, bleach
her stringy hair with a tablespoon
of Nice-N-Easy. Here comes
that heat wave! I remember, turning
a blowdryer on high over the box. I take
Raffa to the bathroom sink, slip off
her tanktop and wedge a cigarette
between her fingers, the tip I make
glow with watercolor. I overflow
a bowl from the faucet and strip
us. Crowded in the bath, we pass
the cigarette, our little wooden
fingers about to catch fire.

The Family Christmas Party

Is like Life, or Family
, or Jeopardy! Game on/e.
Greetings to all. Act
like you’re having
a ball. Kiss on one cheek
for Mary, and the other
for Christ. Now wave,
like a beauty queen, across the room
to no one in particular, but
like Uncle X says: staying busy
keeps you out
of trouble. Game two. Screw it.
Order a screwdriver. Happy birthday
to anyone! Keep your hands
by your side. By the fire.
Find the little ones
and slur something about reindeers
being metaphors for the cycle
of sickness. So near
that bearded flight-risk
and no one told the truth! Ruin
the myth. Lay in the bed everyone else
lied in. The problem
with your transparency is that
it’s not your problem. Round two
is meant for someone
like you. So keep sipping
and leaking and losing
and before you know it
you’ll be winning. Game three.
Odd number, odd timing, odd winter.
It’s that old memory
game and it’s hard, now that
you’re all drenched
in vinos veritas and conscious
as a camera. What exactly
do you remember? What exactly can you
forget. Suddenly you’d rather be
sleepless, and alone, than sucking
thumb on memory foam.

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