I only want what I can’t have
when my old terror stabs me in the neck.
The Lord teaches me to love without fear.

But I wake up in battledress, picking lice
off my collar. Hardtack. Heat lightning.
I only want what I can’t have.

When will I get my great morning of wrath?
When my white deer self comes down from the woods?
The Lord teaches me to love without fear

but I drop my rifle & quickstep away
from all the dead between us. Tell me again how
I only want what I can’t have?

Things must change. I must pray.
If rivers crested & forts collapsed, maybe then.
The Lord teaches me to love without fear.

When I dream of the future, I’m always alone.
But something drags me with fear teeth.
I don’t know what I want. I only love
what I’m Lord of. Teach me, or else.





Hello, dumb vain bird-of-paradise.
Time to shred your lungs’ silk kerchief—
You can’t be pretty mouth & sing.

Want some orange pip pip pips?
Ain’t you lonesome on your little swing?
You dumb vain bird-of-paradise.

I see you doling seeds & ants to nobody.
What a drag. You ain’t made for onliness.
You can’t be pretty mouth & sing!

All alone, all alone, all alone, all alone—
Make your O like an egg. Like an egg, see:
Hell-O. You dumb vain bird-of-paradise.

Don’t swallow them stones. They dead
like you might be awful soon, if you please.
You can’t be pretty mouth & sing.

Just how long will you peck around here
when you ought to belt & caw? Halloo.
Halloo, you dumb vain bird-of-paradise.
You can’t be pretty mouth & sing.



petrosinoKiki Petrosino is the author of three books of poetry: Witch Wife (forthcoming in 2017), Hymn for the Black Terrific (2013) and Fort Red Border (2009), all from Sarabande Books. She holds graduate degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Her poems and essays have appeared in Best American Poetry, The New York Times, FENCE, Gulf Coast, Jubilat, Tin House and on-line at Ploughshares. She is founder and co-editor of Transom, an independent on-line poetry journal. She is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Louisville, where she directs the Creative Writing Program. Her awards include a residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat and research fellowships from the University of Louisville’s Commonwealth Center for the Humanities and Society and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.