A descent

in the price of dishwashers

A rise

in the striations

in the teeth

of child-skeletons

in a pit

beside the workhouse

There is so much we can learn

by how obediently a child

takes up this work 

how its small jaw will unhinge

as it eats its way

out of the grave

in autumn

cranes striate

the dentine of the sky

deciding whether to descend

as night closes its jaw

teeth shatter

and lodge as stars in its pink roof

they are only graceful

when they are in the air

but think themselves graceful


my children

prepare for school again

rise a level

practice rising in the morning

200-year-old children

whose bones are made of pulverized stars

whose teeth developed even as they ate themselves


in the pit

your mouths are open

you are going to be eating

for a long time




wooly thinking


butter weather



hair trigger

on tv

athletes dive into a green pool

the pool accepts every thought

that dives into it

and turns them all

to its own purposes

and turns its cloak

on the camera

and settles down

with two divers in its gut

refusing to give them up




teething ring

boy racer

at the wheel

loops the loop

and rings the ring

each flying thing



the way one bill

is laid upon another

the way a crane

dances for its mate

the awkward body

falling into rhythm

little by little

then all at once


under the weather

in the ring of shaking aspens

in the undone chromosome

in the robust prison

in the bank of hormones

in the gland that won’t answer its phone

in the hoard of honey

in the eternal lodgings

where water circles the drain

reverses, circles the drain

consciousness is

pattern recognition

a weed

that splits the foundation

a lonely and exorbitant

evolutionary step

demented emphasis


boy racer

break your strike

with a lick of honey

break your fall

with a broken ankle

break the bank

with another bank

fail the stress test

crumple it away

like a bill

or joint that buckles

in the long stemmed leg of the crane

make your presentation to the UN

the ring of luminaries like a golden torque

your wing like a crane’s

jerks to each side

to show off the vial

to signify

its time to go to ground

its time to eat this yellowcake


with our own teeth

to lie down

white bones in black soil

the sky’s hidden

and spectacular


Bio: Joyelle McSweeney is the author of eight ill-genred books, including, most recently The Necropastoral: Poems, Media, Occult, a work of goth ecopoetics,and the verse play Dead Youth, or the Leaks. This poem is from Toxicon, forthcoming in Winter 2020 from Nightboat Books.

Image: laurajodiehex