A Journal

"I'm going to come back to West Virginia when this is over. There's something ancient and deeply-rooted in my soul. I like to think that I have left my ghost up one of those hollows, and I'll never really be able to leave for good until I find it. And I don't want to look for it, because I might find it and have to leave".----Breece D'J Pancake, in a letter to his mother. 

Nina Puro

The Race


When we couldn’t refuse, her hair was black lace. Dirt sparkled. Mine was wound
              white-green floss I pressed for sleep, which was chemical
& occurred in shade. Our shade kept growing sour berries & tumors,
              so chipper women in Keds coaxed us together. Mornings we’d chart stars, 

tongue good blue paint chips. They charted a fence around
              an ache in us. Nights we’d dig in snow to trap
night. We’d fall into it each night, dig a deeper hole to hide
              dinner in our veins. Gray medicine’s stored under them

the men still can’t unlock. They yell through the elms, which are sick,
              like us. They crack sticks & bring us dark honey from
the bees, which are dying, like us. We don’t want roots. I wanted my bones
              untouched. We wished everyone well except us. Where’s the part that floats

warm like gas-rags but light like candles from a boat
              & everyone’s sorry & tries to stroke our pale foreheads? In a fallow field,
they’ve lit a piano. We sidle towards it, humming our excuses  
              (to ourselves), slicking on coral lipstick (for the guests), hauling our

old rituals (for the holes). Soon, donors will leak their boring histories. We’ll toss back
              their tiny cocktails like the tiny girls we are. The ghosts here are pushy
and have seeds in their yellow teeth.  Those years I only asked
              who’d died. That way, I didn’t need to add asking who’d won.


Miss World


             While you sleep, leave some food out for the forgotten dead so they’ll warn you later.
When you go to wash her the last time, carry a clean canvas bag
             the perfect size to shoplift. An unfinished letter will be in the mud
by the abandoned mall. Nudge that femur away with your boot first. 

             Don’t trust a man with a generator, an Australian accent, or heirloom
anything. Don’t trust cis men in general, or folks sporting Lululemon.
             The LIVE, LIVE sign flashing above the lunch break means nothing
about history but the one that says LIQUOR does. Slink toward it. The editors

             will change your name; the bosses forget it. Don’t give your real
SSN. Forget their pudgy fingers. Eat with yours. Keep your thumb out. 
             Tell the Lutheran couple in the red truck something cute. Keep one hand
on the door & one on your pack till after the Badlands. Our country is beautiful.

             Our country wants us dead. Your stomach isn’t too big. A storm
bigger than Texas is blowing in, darling. You’ll need to be bigger.







Nina Puro is a poet, human, & queer weirdo whose writing is in Guernica, the PEN Poetry Series, the Indiana Review, & others. A member of the Belladonna* Collaborative; author of two chapbooks (Argos Books and dancing girl press); recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, & others, Nina cries and works in Brooklyn.