Poetry by Tegan Blackwood

The lone lands

Things went to hell in a lot of ways
When they left the land,
Before there was time
For picturesque juxtapositions,
Rusty trucks sprouting dogwoods
Or naked cinderblocks swarmed
By feral daffodils.
The calfless cow bawled for release,
Her udders full to agony, until
She knelt among the limitless fescue,
Leaving her bent bones to bleach
Milk-white in the summer sun.
When lightning felled an old walnut
That stove in the henhouse roof,
The layers found the trees beyond their reach,
Their fat chests too much for
Wings that were all but vestigial.
The rooster fought off the snakes
Until a fox got him,
And then they clucked, and preened, and waited for night.
One or two of the pullets
Ran wild in the woods until winter came.
The cat, at least, was all right for a while,
Though he lacked the parts
To pass his genes along.
He got scabby, lost an eye,
And returned less and less
To scratch on the porch door at dusk.
The grass kept the wildflowers
From rooting in the pasture,
And the brambles closed in,
But it would be a year, at least,
Before they matured to fruit.
The septic tank backed up and overflowed.
The skylight began to leak,
And a thick film of grey-white mold
Blanketed the plank floors,
Devoured the mildewed sofa,
And ensconced the mantle clock,
Struck dumb mid chime
At the moment when the hours turned
As meaningless as the hothouse moth orchid
That drooped in its minuscule windowsill pot
And died for want of water
In the rusting avocado sink.


Cradle Song

You drew a straight line down the middle of my life
around which, under which, I’ve snaked,
and writhed, and shaped myself
into valentines and balloon dogs and swaddling clothes
and I’m sorry, into pins and pinholes.
I will try to pick them up.
My veins pulse in your willow neck.
Your dreams beat in my nighttimes.
I know you like my own hand that I am still
learning how to flex and how to hold
and how, sometimes, to let lie.
I hold you like the moon sways the tides
and is rocked in return,
solid all the way through in her smallness and age,
face always facing even unobserved because
you have still many faces, and everywhere to look.
You may cut me, deep: I will not bleed.
It is not so bad,
to have a side that breathes only alone into the dark.
It is all right to be clawed close and nudged aside,
because your course is mine
by however epicyclic means must be. I can hide in your shadow,
and you don’t have to seek.
You’ve begun to clip your own toenails.
Not in the jagged bleeding lines
that toddlers carve unavoidably in everything nearby,
but in the way that a forty year old man
sits in his recliner and follows the percussive perforations
that come from holding yourself in your own gaze for long enough.
Yet last night, you begged me
to turn your mirror away like a cornered child
thwarting the spirits who– you believe with startling ferocity–
clamor hungrily to watch and whisper, maybe envying
the kind of sleep that only a child sleeps,
limbs limp, lips parted, and your face, too, to the wall.
You live in a fragile moment of contradiction,
one of a precious, quiet few that will decide
more than you can know.
We will always be finding each other,
you and I,
will always be you and I,
one set of two
unaffixed, because what glue
could ever do more than hold you down?

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Tegan Blackwood lives in Columbia, Missouri, where she is a student of English and linguistics, with a focus on medieval languages and literature. She possesses a working knowledge of Old and Middle English, and has studied Latin and Old Icelandic. In 2014, she was awarded the University of Missouri’s Peggy Ewing Prize for writing about English literature before 1900 and selected for an Undergraduate Research Mentorship. Her first poem, “The Cat and the Gnat,” was published when she was five years old, and she has been writing ever since. Her work draws on her experience as a proudly Autistic single mother and survivor of violence, as well as her lifelong enthusiasm for astronomy and space exploration.

Tegan Blackwood won the 2019 New Writer Award (poetry).