Helix cover


Kelly Forsythe

Copyright © 2014 Kelly Forsythe. All rights reserved.


We spent the weekend avoiding
taxes. It was practice. Avoiding
a very long sprain of summer
weather. Gold jewelry on top
of not living in Brooklyn. What
more can you ask of me?
I watch for the subway,
leaning into hot thunder
hopelessly asking a stranger
to brush my shoulder—
wait for my arrival. Just you
wait. I’ll pay all the bills.
By surprise we will crop
our tops and put ice cubes
in red wine, over an entire
lifetime wish to be in one
same city.

Long Evaporation Across the States

Torch. Torchlight of hair.
Along the cityscape, electricity drags
its linear body in a glittering vein.
I ride in a cab lifting its front
wheels through black snow. I
came here adrift. Above the street
there is a hold on the elevators. A
shining from a moving cell.
If there is a luminosity to me, show
me the ignition.
You grow still in a swampland with
black clouds. I know that if I find
you, I will have to stay in the vapor there,
inside of the inside, saturated in suspension
above the saltwater. You are inside of my inside
wind. I must go into your breath
and stay in the coolness. Gale of my lung.
If I am only an exhalation of a planet,
lift me to the coal-throat of the sky. I’ll
come to you to be made radiant. Come
to me for the having. Have me and the burn
of salt from the vital areas of our bones.

Red Swell

I carried into the summer
that animal hunger took
vodka with ginger ale on
the plane. Missed your teeth.
We, the vicious. We stared
at fevers bursting from our chests
for each other for our needs
not being met. You get home,
I get home. Too late for lingering
I picture you rooted in a perishing
southern city writing a myth
about us: it is a July sadness.
It is August last. We, the red.
The maple terror. In heavy rain
we pretend to be cold to press
against those rages the regions
of our summer playing out tearing
us up. I am so close to letting
you ask questions to standing
at your door asking to swim
in your late summer heat asking
you to make it to the pool with me
after it closes and leap into dark
humid waters us two the ones
whose lips glowed in the current
of each other's breath.

The Journal of the Girls

I need to take the top off
one more time.
(“What top?”)
The top of me.

          —Ryann Wahl

She took the skin off the rock. Sat up
from sunbathing to watch a man running sideways
her hair soft lighter fluid
I know there is no love there
in the careful observation
a violet fog rolling up past her calves
she bites her wrist-vein, quicksilver, brings
it to the mouth of the grass
void me
the steepness of breath inside
I know this glass body
diamond bone
it is mine; also, yours; ours,
I recognize it all
You caught the bright in your center
You clot the finite in your
painted nails. So temporary. Silk
eyelashes, will you watch for me
In a sheet tent, here is the flashlight
divine hair of your sister cut
into kidney-shapes
Two hearts in hot ringlets
Here in this humid orchestra
she plays with her fingers:
rabbit shadow-puppets
in between knuckle-webbing the smell
of apple cores
you both should be rising
and twinkling against the cotton
should be braiding the pulp
of your leftover tea
why is no one moving
is this the silhouette of a burial
or are we still swimming
in the lake beside Pennsylvania


That you may have been small, gene. A tiny cross
of parental freeways. Little fragment of extended
tastes: likes, dislikes, hair color, eyes.
That our thrills could be found in the departure—
a woman with a face wearing full honesty—
and the winters pressing our earrings out
of our ears. It is only winter we have
to sort our inadequacies against the snow,
amber dress, gold ring—as teens
we blew invisible candles on plastic cakes,
fingertip to fingertip on the kitchen counter.
Had we both been planned? Our happening.
Our ways. The proteins of our limbs.
Why not braids or beehives? It would take forever
to find the differences in our faces. We know
our chemical halves, our sum totals. Here we are:
the organic impulses of each; white cursive
on a mirror: are we here.

Manifest Destiny

Whether true
in a study it is told
each left-handed person
is conceived with a twin
who dies in the early stages
was I your arsonist
could I have been
your capsizing sea
in the mosaic of a womb
was I the mirrored glass
that crushed you
or the hurt brick causing
your whole bridge to collapse
perhaps you
were at the middle
of your life by hour 6
knew the great sleep
awaited you
& perhaps our birth mother
& birth father
& birth sister shaped
their vowels differently
or parted their hair
to the other side
or had coffee instead of tea
after you moved on
but didn’t know why
or what loss had occurred
that a foothill had been leveled
or a fence uprooted
by some blurred, muted disaster
swirling its stakes into a wisp

Tidal Basin

Cherry blossoms pulsing
we tear through the spring
April of the evil eye
some slunk core darkened
over our human gravities
We, the hidden ones
the ladies of the open animal,
of the beating Maryland pollen
lay open to the cavities
made sincere by our allergies
Touch our faces
please Oh
God, in the likeness of summer,
we are born & fed by halos
of white Potomac water
Where are we going?
We are knives of radiance
thrust into the frailest
hayfever sleep

We drove looking for ghosts on the gravel road

high school boys: a stone inside means
I want to tell this story
a stone inside
a car I was
barely breaking into frost
& flowers of ice
chipped our bumpers
We put the windows down
to reach our wolf spirits
We follow another car
all over my body it is snowing
I lean to call out the window to you
choke on my blonde
hair I’ll call you spirit
I called you back from the shoulder
of a highway, a plum
sunset tapering to a splinter
It is hard to know anything
the brake light shadow
forms a blush on my cheek


The woman kept commenting on my skin
20’s be more magnificent
be able to have
a stake in magnificence
& the whole time
I want my foot to be braced
behind your calf
I’m hunting you
discipline I’m hunting for some
way to press
against you
& I wore this tank top
to contrast my complications
the inferno the vibration the blonde bright bright white
I’m almost aware of your cheekbones, the woman says.
Your stare across the table
it is now intricate
& drunk
it is okay to move away
from me it is
what happens
in my throat   stepping back
it doesn’t make you want any less
to know what my body could take
if it was yours
if hair and palm
if that heat


we were born in sunlight
a birth in clovers
behind our birdbath
I dreamt my sister owned a horse
inherited near a chain-link fence
& that I conjured a snake from its mane
no poison, just a slim, bitter fang
attached to scales attached to muscles
we each took an axe
& swung, splitting it into halves
—suddenly it was glass, as flowers
bursting open in spring, everywhere
uncontrollable glass. The cinders
froze in terror. The horse looked
away. I am not fearing
this power. Wood blisters
bring us home. Venom splinters
bring us, golden field
bring us, flaring sun bring us,
mercury blade bring the cleanest cut
to the leanest lung
& home.


Thank you to Bodega and The Literary Review (TLR), where some of these poems have appeared or are forthcoming.

Thank you to Morgan Forsythe, Holly Amos, Hafizah Geter, Ryann Wahl: muses, bosses, queens of poetic universes—Jack & Romaine, and Jeffrey Allen, Stephen Danos, Jessica Dyer for helping me feel fearless with this work. Many thanks to my Pittsburgh sisters, Copper Canyon family, and my true spirit animals over at Phantom Limb. And John Shawl, my truest truth.

I am thankful to Jaswinder Bolina and Christopher Louvet at Floating Wolf Quarterly for giving Helix a place to wind & unwind.