Five Poems

Poetry / Kendra DeColo

:: Isn’t “Food Court” a Lovely Term ::

not just the sound but the place  

I mean aren’t Panda Express and Sbarros lovely

with their food garnished on metal trays

how when I’m inside of one 

I feel home no matter how far  

up route 65 between Kentucky and Indiana

where churches and Subway franchises

neck and I know exactly where I must go

to reach the good Starbucks and avoid the McDonalds

where high school students hand out gift cards

“From Jesus because he loves you”

and I almost took one once 

I had been driving alone for hours

on my way to a conference 

where I would have gotten drunk 

in the good old days

would have gotten tanked

and made some bad decision

not out of stupidity or self-destruction

but a deliberate attempt 

to feel more than I thought 

the world has to offer

like ransacking a hotel’s free buffet

stuffing my pockets full 

of food I’ll never eat
I didn’t yet understand

the beauty of a road

connecting towns I’ll never see in daylight

decked out in neon effigies

each vestibule offering its own flavor

of sanctuary

or I did 

and couldn’t tolerate it

how I took the gift card

from the girl’s hand

and imagined what it would feel like

to be forgiven

and for a moment I did

and I gave it back


:: I Hope Hillary Is Having Good Sex ::

I hope Hillary is having good sex

I say to myself at the farmer’s market

While fingering the over-ripened bustier

Of an heirloom tomato

So close to rot it nearly sucks 

My pinky into its dappled maw

I hope she’s at least getting decent head I say again

Now that she’s proven a woman

Can win the popular vote

And still lose to an imbecile

Because sexism

Because Russian interference

Because my grandmother

Who worked for LBJ and then

Nixon and was harassed by male coworkers

Until she had to quit

Even she said of Hillary, “There is something

About that woman I just don’t trust”

I hope Hillary is getting it in 

By Bill or someone better at listening 

Who asks her what she needs

Then gets directly down to business

Without preamble or pussyfooting 

Someone who emerges 

Only for a sandwich or breath of fresh air

I hope she has multiple sidepieces 

Each a different build and scent

And when they ask 

To see her closet full of immaculate suits 

Organized and shimmering on their racks

Like a god’s molted skin

She lets them touch just the hem


:: I Don’t Like to Have Sex While I’m on My Period ::

even though my husband is the kind of guy 

who isn’t afraid 

of a woman’s fluids

who might even go down

if the flow is light

a real man 

you might say 

if the logic wasn’t steeped 

in toxic masculinity the way 

the sheets are steeped in blood

after making love on day three

the rasp of stain beneath us

like a bat fluttering its wings

in a puddle of Robitussin

I can’t help but think 

it’s crude 

to put down a towel 

before we begin

the way a man sticks a gloved

finger up his wife’s vagina

to assess if she’s done bleeding

clean you might say

if that language wasn’t steeped

in violent misogyny

because isn’t my blood the cleanest 

part about me 

fuck a towel

if you want to go deep

you better be willing to draw blood

my husband is a real man

isn’t afraid to smell 

the shed lining

muffle his face in the spasm of cells

wasn’t afraid to watch our daughter

emerge and split me open 


which means my body

concussed around her like a crown

which means

there was so much blood

I had to touch it

to remember where I came from

the hot and pulsing corona

ruckus of DNA

metallic and stinging

Love, forgive me

I do not want to be touched

while my body

orchestrates this unraveling

as much as I love

the bouquet of clots

rioting around the base of your cock

bright as a truck stop souvenir 

to own a part of you

where the blood remains


and hissing

a dwelling

of dank perfume

as the body

travels back to its source

and I am answerable to no one

not even my own name


:: There Is a Moment I Feel Free ::

driving to the taco place
where a few weeks back

a shooting happened
right where our car was parked

and in retrospect
it seems negligent

to have been that happy 
sitting at the counter

squeezing limes 
over everything

and Aretha
is now in my speakers

the song where she sings
in quick succession

“you’re all I need to get by…
baby you know that you got me”

and maybe motherhood
has made me soft 

which is close to a kind 
of ghoulishness

I don’t know
I know it has taken me

35 years to learn how to dress 
appropriately for the weather

to apply moisturizer before bed
and sunscreen in the morning

to be this in love
with the life I’ve made

and care for it 
no matter how reckless that is


:: Crow Flying Overhead with a Hole in Its Wing ::

I looked up and saw you this morning

flying over a tex-mex restaurant

the hole in your wing

the size of a bottle cap

I googled what it means

and read about parasites

but nothing about whether it is 

a benediction

to see an animal flying

with this perfect portal in its wing

through which I saw the sky

through which its jeweled language 

leaked muted and streaky

through which I heard 

the first song I ever played my daughter

holding her near the window

that overlooks our street

through which I saw everything

I had been afraid of

which was a kind of death

which was a kind of 


buckling toward joy

as I have fallen to my knees

in grief 

but have never known

what it sounds like

to sing without expecting


through which the wind

might touch us

which is the only

benediction I need


From the writer

:: Account ::

After the elec­tion, which coin­cid­ed with the ear­ly months of new moth­er­hood, a few inci­dents trig­gered a feel­ing of being unsafe in my own home, sim­i­lar to symp­toms of anx­i­ety: the feel­ing of not being safe in my body. (How many times has the world made me feel this way, and how many times did I inter­nal­ize the mes­sage that I can­not keep myself safe?)

These poems, writ­ten dur­ing a time of heal­ing, were a way to feel safe again, to cel­e­brate my new iden­ti­ty as a moth­er, and name in the pub­lic space of a poem, what is unac­cept­able to me, polit­i­cal­ly and personally.

We are liv­ing under an admin­is­tra­tion that has been accu­rate­ly described as liv­ing in the house of an abuser. I have been think­ing all these years how our con­nec­tion to lan­guage will keep us safe and ground­ed in our own truth. I have been think­ing about the way poems have always been a way of say­ing enough, a way of mark­ing a sacred bound­ary around who we are (indi­vid­u­al­ly and col­lec­tive­ly) and what we need in order to thrive.


Kendra DeCo­lo is the author of I am Not Try­ing to Hide My Hungers from the World (BOA Edi­tions, 2021), My Din­ner with Ron Jere­my (Third Man Books, 2016) and Thieves in the After­life (Sat­ur­na­lia Books, 2014), select­ed by Yusef Komun­yakaa for the 2013 Sat­ur­na­lia Books Poet­ry Prize. Her poems and essays have appeared in Amer­i­can Poet­ry Review, Tin House Mag­a­zine, Waxwing, Los Ange­les Review, Bitch Mag­a­zine, VIDA, and else­where. She is a recip­i­ent of a 2019 Poet­ry Fel­low­ship from the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts and has received awards and fel­low­ships from the Mac­Dow­ell Colony, the Bread Loaf Writ­ers’ Con­fer­ence, the Mil­lay Colony, Split this Rock, and the Ten­nessee Arts Com­mis­sion. She is co-host of the pod­cast RE/VERB: A Third Man Books Pro­duc­tion and she lives in Nashville, Tennessee.