After they’ve stolen the eggs from the chicken yard,
when the lottery ticket you thought you won
turned out to be a parking ticket, on a day
you could have slept through but didn’t,
somewhere at the bottom of a stack of bills,

like a smiley face left inside a lunch box,
a card with your name on it and inside the card,
all the love you could imagine,
more love than once split you open at the sides
from too much laughter

more than all the gold of sunlight just before dusk when
desire lays down its knitting,
love that blurs the space between us, love
so big you cannot see where it begins, or ends—
and sometimes, frankly, you forget its there,

atmospheric love, songs to which you know every word
and sometimes forget you are singing.

Portrait of a Woman Artist

We were outcasts living in America’s raised fist.

The cancer crouched in his lungs, waiting
for the surgeon’s scalpel.

My love dying upstairs as the tide spat bricks.

King was already dead. Kennedy next.

I made the headstone myself, bludgeoned the alabaster.
It consoled me with its weight.

When I took up with black musicians,
someone left a dead chicken on the porch.

I didn't care if I had enemies.

I taught myself to paint with the blunt edge
of a stick, ploughed into ice-thick water
to watch a cormorant dry his wings.

Friend, I tell you, I did not end.
I paddled harder then.

In memory of Pat de Groot

Sixth Grade

They called you
to the office
for violations
you did not imagine
the trouble
your body or
dress code, or
how short your shorts
could be or
were allowed or
not allowed
the sudden trouble
of your legs
the body as
from your dreaming
mind and how
you were warned
and stuck in those clothes
all day attending
the first indication
that your body
did not belong
and your legs
were not governed
by how fast
they could run
not even the bruises
and scars you acclaimed
belonged to you
how odd you felt
and suddenly wrong

MELISSA TUCKEY is a poet and literary activist. She has a background in environmental activism and is a co-founder of Split This Rock, a national organization dedicated to “calling poets to the center of public life.” Tuckey is author of Tenuous Chapel, a book of poems selected by Charles Simic for the ABZ Press First Book Prize (2013) and editor of Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (University of Georgia Press 2018). Her honors include a fellowship at Black Earth Institute, a winter fellowship at Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and writing awards from DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and Ohio Arts Council. She holds an MFA from George Mason University, and teaches community-based creative writing workshops in Ithaca, New York.