“I got to laugh ’cause I know I’m gonna die.”



A woman on the phone says she is dying

turns thunder into a body that men


sing about, a bird of bones and breathe


who lived to see her three sons and husband


die, hung by a rope


a refraction of pink moon pooling

over the tongues and wings of men like

salted weeds and sea irises painted


blue because there is no life after


death and who actually believes

in anything beyond what a dark tree


in the middle of a sea named Heaven

could offer anyone but a distance


you call a run that fails you every time


because there are always calories

and journals and ways to fill a thing called


a void with names you hear like music


in a bar after midnight where no one ever

plays KISS because this is not the NJ


turnpike and this woman on the phone can’t be


found anymore, not by a dial up

modem, not by text


but still you come looking for her body


only to find there is no body and there is no


thunder, just lightning and a dial tone and

an answer only in your head and some music


sheets to a song you hate.


All these years after her sons and her husband

and the children never lived and the cancer


she hid


and the cancer treatment she never talked

about and the divorce and the rope and then to see


to see the rope hiding in the tool shed, in


the backseat of your car and wherever she is,

you write a letter to her, unsigned, stamped


a year too late.


It was never about the music.








Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (Operating System, 2017), Sexting the Dead (Unknown Press, 2018), Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), and is the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes, Poetry and the managing editor for Civil Coping Mechanisms and Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Brooklyn Magazine, Prelude, BUST, Spork Press, and elsewhere. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets. / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente


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