Two Poems from Whitney Waters

One the best things about NDQ is working with our editors and the diverse group of folks who make up our editorial board. They’re a remarkably generous and creative group and it’s always a pleasure to share their work with a broader audience.

This week, we feature two poems by Whitney Waters, our Associate Poetry Editor. Both poems acknowledge the wonder of the everyday and reflect on the threads that connect our encounters with others and the anxious situation in the world today.

Both of these poems (and two more!) will appear in NDQ 87.1/2 which is almost ready for typesetting. To celebrate this, we also are going to start reading poetry again a couple of weeks earlier than usual! Send us your good stuff.

Remember that NDQ relies on our outstanding contributors, editors, and subscribers to thrive. Please consider submitting to NDQsubscribing, or downloading our previous volume. For some content from from our most recent issue, NDQ 86.3/4, click here. For a preview from our next issue, 87.1/2, go here.   

Still Life with Chickens

Because now I have to tie the legs together
with a spool of speckled thread,
across the soft translucent pink
of their breasts, around
their spread wings so they won’t knock against
the metal rod as they rotate, roasting.
Because today, a lady lectured
me about Syria while I made her latte.
How horrible it is there, how good the people
are, and I’m doing nothing about it
but steaming milk. Because my coworker
went out to eat last night
with her girlfriend and was refused service.
Sometimes the whole rod of chickens falls.
I smell the burning skin against the bottom
of the oven. A man gives me a tiny plastic chip
for my phone that he says will prevent
me from being angry or getting brain
cancer. If you put it in your car, gives you more
gas mileage. It’s proven. He has a computer screen
with dots, cells, research. I watch people standing
on one foot as he presses against their arms.
They hold a pendent. They resist.
And though I don’t believe any of it, I put the chip
on my cell phone anyway. I have dreams
of buildings collapsing right in front of me, clouds
of dust and smoke. People stand in a circle and are handed
scraps of paper, bundled like torn letters, with the names
of those they love who have died.


Construction Site

After all the mornings and afternoons
lying in a hammock,
I’ve memorized the patterned
green leaves in hopes of permanence.
At night, I curl around you. Lanterns
slowly fade, air cools,
your body is the heat.


Meanwhile, I slip in and out
of clouds and other people’s lives.
Buzzards circle,
and I try to count,
but how can I when they circle
that way? We let our clothes dry
on our bodies, pressed against
rock. The electric hum of the ground


We ran up the wooden stairs
to the third floor of skeleton
apartments. The gravel unsteady
under my thin shoes, streetlights
shone through holes
for windows, the rooms
all drywall and countertop.
The moon floated, unfeathered
and breathless, a shadow. The floor
a layer of white dust that stained
my knees. You pressed me against
the wall and lifted me around you.
We could fall straight through
those spaces if we wanted to.


We stood on the slanted
wooden porch surrounded by tall weeds.
I told you I was pregnant. Pink
summer sun filled the gaps between
leaves while cicadas hummed
their jettison and ruckus.
I leaned against the railing and
you smoked a cigarette.


Whitney Waters is a poet and graduate student at Western Carolina University, where she teaches composition and studies literature with a focus on female writers, postcolonial works, and animal studies. She currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

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