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5 poems

M I C K I E   K E N N E D Y



At fifteen, I wrote a poem about a boy.

I never showed him, which was smart,

since his father drove a pickup truck


with a gun rack blaring from the back window.

It was embarrassingly imageless,

all platitudes and eager wants.


It was missing the slip of his tongue

to catch the sweat while he pitched

a screwball. It was missing the ache


of a beard just beginning to show.

This was rural North Carolina.

Tobacco leaves and rusty tractors,


church clothes and cicada husks.

There was no room for touch

unless the touch was rough.


The price of his hands—a slit

eye, a lump on my cheekbone, bruises

collecting like words on a page.










My mother handed me a magnifying glass to melt fire ants, but I couldn’t stop looking at my fingertips—whorls like cul-de-sacs.


Startle of fresh caramel on my tongue as I bit into an apple. The wet, crisp part going soft in my mouth.


I flipped plastic pancakes on a plastic stove with the girls, even though Ms. Lee wanted me to race cars with the boys.


When I was alone, I ate chalk. A crumbly chew at the back of the throat. A purple smear around my lips.


A farmer two doors down said I was my father’s spitting image. Later that night, fresh from the shower, I searched Dad’s skin for myself.
















A kettle gone empty on the stove.

She considers tea, or something stronger.


A sleeve of saltines for lunch,

two spoonfuls of jam, a hummingbird


thermometer on the window stuck at 76.

Record-breaking rainfall, a weather woman


blaring from the slack-jawed TV.

She’s got the personality of a salt lick, she thinks,


switching channels to Judge Judy.

She tries to remember how long since her last


perm, how long she’s been wearing

the same cotton dress. A dog barks


down the block and she bolts off the couch 

to let her beagle out—dead three years.









I woke up dizzy, so I called in sick. All I could manage to eat was a sleeve of saltines I dealt to my mouth one by one as I watched reruns of the Golden Girls. I opened a second sleeve, and something opened in my stomach. Like the rot inside a jar, forcing the lid free. I lifted my shirt and discovered a hole. Dark black. Bloodless. Bigger than my fist. I stood in front of a mirror with a flashlight, bending my ear towards myself—trickling water, the chatter of a thousand tiny bats roosting in my rib cage. I slipped my hand inside: up to my wrist, then up to my elbow. No organs, no walls, just a pocket of cave-damp air my arm passed cleanly through.










The puzzle piece that is me

resembles Florida.

The plot thickens

like pancakes,

like the lenses of my glasses

as I age. Two red marks

on my nose, like hickeys

from God, and God

combs her hair in the mirror,

says it’s not enough

to be loved. You need

to be worth loving—

a three-dollar Coke,

a double cheeseburger,

hold the pickle,

hold the phone to your ear

and listen for the sound

of some other trumpet,

the sound of a woman

draping a Kleenex

over her face.



Mickie Kennedy (he/him) is a gay, neurodivergent writer who resides in Baltimore County, Maryland with his family and a shy cat that lives under his son's bed. A Pushcart Prize nominee, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Threepenny Review, The Southern Review, Colorado Review, Gulf Coast, Black Warrior Review, Copper Nickel, and elsewhere. A finalist for the 2023 Pablo Neruda Prize, he earned an MFA from George Mason University. Follow him on Twitter/X @MickiePoet or his website

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