two poems

by Anna D. Ralls-Ulrich

Sonnet for Home

Praise the home that crushed and raised you, the first names you said in both love and anger: the fairy-tale love turned fever dream, the home that became a castle, then a prison.  Praise the fear that burned your wrists raw: the fingernails buried in pale skin, that left behind crescent-shaped scars.  You bite your nails now, gnaw them short: your wrists are clean.  You cup light in your palms but when you do, your father’s shadow follows.  Praise the shuddering breaths, the panic attacks blinking like candles in dark bedrooms: praise the tea brewed with shaking hands, books peeled open then snapped shut, chalkboards erased, white dust on the ground.  The side of your left hand, coated in pencil lead, the writing you left behind smudged, letters dragged through each other, curling and mixing like milk poured into tea.  The flowers in your hair have wilted: you picked these clovers yourself, folded them into a bent braid.  The stems tip with brown now, and the calyx folds, cupping papery petals.  Wonder if you are Cinderella or a Step-sister: decide you are Rapunzel, then cut your own hair.  Pour a mug of tea, sharpen it with whiskey: breathe a prayer and a curse in the steam that rises from the cup.  Praise and hate this complicated love: the love that till lately kept your hair long, the love that built you a tower but not a way down.


Ode to the Late-Arriving Planes                          (from Odes to Useless Things)

You birds lagging behind, gliding slowly
home to rest on the earth’s naked skin,

you engines humming at a lower pitch,
you thirty-something virgins, you slow

runners: I could spit stale words for you,
something about stopping to smell roses,

but here’s the truth: speed = time = money
= capitalism = bullshit. It’s all bullshit, really:

the way the curvature of the earth and winds
push you into a Coriolis effect you never asked

for; the way they board you; the truth is
that they pushed these roses into your hands

then said you must be in love because you
held flowers. The pollen smells like a drug,

like a drink, like bullshit, like docking
in an airport you never meant to visit.

Anna D. Ralls-Ulrich (she/they) is an emerging writer from Columbia, MO. They have completed a Masters degree in Creative Writing at Oxford University, and their works have been previously published in Contrary, Atticus, and Colorado Review. Anna has been nominated for the Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.

Artwork by: Chirag Nayak