2010s · Poetry

If Poetry Is Parked Car

My heart is bottom-pink
and raw, not knowing
how many beats to give
beats to exhale

All words crowd into the soft
spaces, roof of my mouth
cutting inside cheeks
rolling off lips

All quiets are questions
my voice too loud
my hands too clumsy

How do I protect you
when I’ve just been born?
When my spit edges
in the corners of your drink?

I’m dumb, backseat fumbling
legs over knees
arms over shoulders

If my skin in moonlight
is softest, how do your hands
melt into my scars?

First Published in Carnival Lit.

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2010s · Poetry

Monkey Bars & Golden Spokes

Let’s go back
to when you hung
on my words like monkey bars
when you sighed the first time
you ever kissed me,
gave me lottery winning eyes
when you kissed me again

Go back before
my words hung
like bars around your cell
before you clenched
your teeth
at the sound
of my need

Go back when
you studied the curves
of my mouth
sent me to work
each morning
with a tongue
full of blessing

Go back before
every word
had to be measured
and weighed
before an honest response
could mean
I may never again see
the golden spokes
of your irises

Back to when
we were both
eager passengers
Back before
our feet were heavy
with hesitation

Back when
we knew nothing
Back before
we could not forget

First Published in Drunk Monkeys.

2010s · Poetry

When the Dam Won’t Break

Sometimes the dam won’t break
Sometimes the breath holding
becomes so automatic, lungs
won’t expand and the oxygen
in your pores becomes painful

Sometimes the clock won’t tick
Sometimes the unrest stops
your soul from unfolding
the heart beats without pumping
your blood, leaving fingers cold

Sometimes one listen isn’t enough
Sometimes the song mustn’t end
the music has more love to give
your ears opening to the sound
makes you weep silently

First published on Hedgerow.

2010s · How to Unexist · Poetry

Love Letter No. 3: To My Mending Self

You may begin to miss the grieving
the adrenaline heart thrashing in your ribcage
the coughing lungs asking permission to breathe
You may begin to hear all the quiets
humid silence scratching
each day confirming
this is it
this is all it will ever be

You may begin to miss the panic of hope
tangled in his kite strings
miss the fight, the battle, the bruise
miss kissing blood from rope-burned hands
You may begin to sleep through the night
to lack rebuttal
to forget to answer back

You may begin notice
the crevices in your wrists
the uneven scurry
of a black beetle across concrete
notice the sound of lead scraping paper
how it curls to the rub of an eraser
disappears like it was never there
to begin with

First Published in Indiana Voice Journal.

2010s · How to Unexist · Poetry

Girl in Flight

I envy the girls
with light filled wings
They fly from breeze to breeze
pouring beams from their teeth
All men audience them
eat their smiles like candy
They breathe in love—
they breathe out love
No man ever
centers their universe

I could not be that girl for you
one with laughing eyelashes
smooth cheeks glossed
for kissing and leaving
kissing and leaving

I am unwinged, gravity locked
in oceans—not sky
teeth for crushing chains
eyes fire-fed
to burn through hurricanes

My love is anchor
my love is whale song
my love is sandpaper grit
galaxies inside pearl
volcanoes under mountain

My love does not breeze—
but tunnels into mantle
burrows into core
You want a girl in flight
laughing eyelashes
but I am unwinged gravity

First published in Indiana Voice Journal.

Events · Feature Readings

Seventeen Poems Not About a Lover Chapbook Release

Arroyo Seco Press presents Seventeen Poems Not About a Lover Chapbook Release party! 17 poems written by Sarah Thursday with lovingly crafted, paper-cut art for each poem by Alyssandra Nighswonger.
Sunday, April 29th from 4 to 6 pm at Viento Y Agua Coffeehouse, 4007 E. 4th St., Long Beach, CA. There will be guest poets, art, and books! Details TBA.
More about the collaborators:
Sarah Thursday was born, in part, from inspiration found in her collaborator, Alyssandra Nighswonger. After six years of friendship and artistic crushing, this dream project has come to life. In addition to writing poetry, Sarah founded Sadie Girl Press to help publish local and emerging poets and artists. She ran a poetry website called CadenceCollective.net, co-hosted a monthly reading with G. Murray Thomas, but still wants to find new ways to bring poetry and art into her community. She has been published in many fine journals and anthologies and received a 2017 Best of the Net nomination. Her first full-length poetry collection, All the Tiny Anchors, and her other chapbooks and CDs are available at SadieGirlPress.com. Find and follow her to learn more on SarahThursday.com, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Alyssandra Nighswonger is a multi-media artist and adventure-lover from Long Beach, CA. This project was a swan dive into the heart and a journey in itself. The thing that Alyssandra admires the most about her friend Sarah is the way she takes her own personal challenges and creates an alchemy of the heart with her raw and fearlessly beautiful poetry. For Alyssandra, who can be a lot more timid with exposing the darker side of her emotions in her music and art and tends to hide meaning behind whimsy on the regular, this collaboration was a thematic challenge. It led to creating deeper layers in the illustrations, opening them up to being cut apart, and exposing that even the cutest wolf has a shadow, which developed this work into a papercut escapade. You can explore several of her musical projects and adventures at talesofalyssandra.com or follow her instagram @alyssssandra.
17 Poems Not About a Lover · 2010s · Poetry

Oceans Once Receded

I was a desert woman
who learned to live on cactus boys
learned to run at night and sleep all day
knowing the burn of sky and sand

Then you came with your oceans
rivers, lakes, and waterfalls
I dove in, eyes closed
hoping you’d teach me to swim
hoping to learn your whale songs

I threw away my land shoes
swam under the stars
let my skin pucker in your waves
my desert plants were drowning
I let them bloat and drift away

Then your tsunami receded
first sudden, then steady and slow
I stood naked in your mud bed
for weeks with dripping hair,
dripping hands refused to dry

I learned to pray to wet earth
give thanks for saltwater baths
learned to hear your voice
in the night bird songs

Until even the mud left
took its soft clay from between my toes
the caked earth in my hair
began to dry and crumble
desert wind wiped all traces
of salt from my cheeks

I push myself back into desert shade
live in the evening light
I can never return to cactus fruit
when I’ve fed on fields of phytoplankton
I’ve lost the taste for prickly boys
so I may wither for a while

Until at the edge of some moment
in the pale space between sun and moon
I might hear the sound
of water rushing

First Published in Element(ary) My Dears.

2010s · How to Unexist · Poetry

What I Mean When I Say Run

Get out, get out
and into the world
a woman like me
would tie your hands with ropes
and hang them from her hips

Get out while you can
and let the wind carry you
a woman like me
would climb from under your boots
and into your pockets
lay you down heavy on her bed
just to rise above you

Get out and wander
be a wild bird
a woman like me
would clip your song feathers
and stuff them in her mouth
just to have your voice
seeping from her ears

Get out and make no promises
don’t even say you won’t
a woman like me
hangs on open window sills
burns her eyes on the driveway’s end
holds all your words
like collected seashells
in her cupped hands

Get out and go far
take no existing path
a woman like me
would strip you naked
press you inside of her
memorize the turn in your face
in the dim light
she’d reach in and pull
all the strength you have left

Get out
She’ll want to cut rings
from the center of your eyes
and string them like beads
around her neck

Get out
She’ll envy the breath in your lungs

Get out
She’ll put a straw to your mouth

Get out
She’ll want you empty

Get out
She’ll drain you cold as death
just so she can pour her blood
into your veins

First published in Indiana Voice Journal.

2010s · Poetry

Drawing Maps for the Lost

I learned the names of all my family demons
gave them faces instead of shadowing ache
bottled them in jars of science
labeled, set in rows on the shelf
But the devil,

I sat down for dinnerfed him chicken soup for his soul
He drank for days and months
and now, we live like roommates
share the kitchen and household chores

I am not naive—
I know his claws are sharp
and his teeth still bleed
I sleep now
with only a pen at my bedside

But always leave a light on
in case he feeds       on the dark

First published in East Jasmine Review.

2010s · Poetry

I don’t have room to write about it all

my clicking mouth
these tiny earthquakes
on the surface of my bones
shaking shaking shaking
it is hanging claws
deep on the mantel of my neck
razorblading into my spinal cord
until my gut swallows, shudders and gasps
all the futures in my belly ache
rope-miles of my insides lunge
like tiny airplanes
I have to write notes
to my lungs: expand and release
expand and releaserefuse to drown, already!refuse to be sunk