Three Poems by Anna Gayle

landscape with sex and middle school hallways
after Lynn Melnick

mostly men keep singing
and I do not know what to call
the space between my legs
until they tell me—thigh gap

mostly men keep singing
and I remember the blue-striped
wall of the tiled hallway
and I remember
rows of lockers blurring

mostly men keep singing
and I was a girl
when I learned to run
a song chasing me
in some major key
because there is so much
to be glad about


blessed are the meek

the hallways behind the sanctuary kept our secrets tucked under their orange
carpet. the games of giving

birth: we laid our girl bodies on freshly
vacuumed lines and opened our legs and

squeezed a hand. we understood babies needed fathers but did not know how
fathers became themselves.

we did not ask questions: we brought boys to the back of the church to play
house and sometimes

let them kiss our mouths and sometimes
let them tackle us to the ground and sometimes

let our skirts gather at our waists, cotton lifting like halos over our heads.

we knew our shoulders were as secret as our knees; we knew sin began wit
sight and once we were seen

we could be touched, but not forgiven.
we knew Jesus died with his body on display,

so we let the boys undo our buttons and pin our palms to the stucco walls and
we took turns sacrificing.


in the beginning

            The man said, “The woman you put here with me—
                        she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Genesis 3:12

truth be told, Adam was the first body
violated in his sleep.

God dipped holy hands
between clay flesh and out of a rib

made permission
for men to do as he did.

the men I know say they are faithless,
but if they did not believe in Adam’s God

they would not know practices
as ancient as these:

entering an unconscious body.
breaking skin to see it bleed.

making soil of a wound
and naming each bloom

(even the weeds, even their seeds)

demanding a body, any body,
warm and thirsty.

molding miracles in cavities
and calling it good.

ending stories with words
like asking for it

and calling it good.

               Note: this poem borrows part of its first line
                           from “Confession” by Leila Chatti


Anna Gayle is a poet, educator, and artist whose work explores themes of black womanhood, collective femininity, and chronic illness. She is an MFA candidate in poetry at Oregon State University where she serves as the arts & comics editor for literary magazine 45th Parallel. Her poems have been published, or are forthcoming, in Rogue Agent, The Mantle, Thimble Lit Magazine, and Empty House Press. Anna’s work has been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology and a Pushcart Prize.

In the Beginning by Robbi Nester

In the Beginning

When I was three, the street signs used to taunt
me with arcane symbols, not yet words. I knew
that if I studied them, they would open-sesame
the world I dreamed about, the one in books,
built out of these odd symbols. I filched a paper
from the corner store and stared at it for hours,
till the letters rose like flame from a struck
match. It was years before some kind adult
taught me the alphabet. Instead, my father
took the newspaper away and punished me
for stealing it. Later, every week, I’d borrow
ten books from the library. I couldn’t wait
to open them. But my mother thought
that children ought to play outside. I hid
out in the car like an assassin, sat silent
on the darkened cellar stairs, a stack
of books beside me, Prometheus, savoring
the danger, hoarding this stolen light.


Robbi Nester is the author of four books of poetry and editor of three anthologies. She is a retired college educator and elected member of the Academy of American Poets. Her website is at