by Mag Gabbert

in high school a boy
broke up with me because
I wasn’t giving him
enough blowjobs

in ancient Greece
the goddess Aphrodite
made people conceive
of semen foam and shellfish
as all somehow linked

my friends and I used to play
a game where we’d make
ourselves hyperventilate
we’d stand bent over
with our hands on our knees

I like the idea
of the briny sweet slip
between the shell
and the body
between vessel and spirit

I like the pleasure
of deprivation
once someone satisfies it
for example by releasing
their hand from around my neck

I once read that oysters
are shaped by their beds
they form around
whatever they attach to

it goes without saying
that I do not
enjoy giving blowjobs
and yet I do

wear a lip-gloss called “venom”
that makes my lips swell and sting
as if someone just hit me


by Mag Gabbert

the day my fingers were folded into
a swinging door’s hinge
and pressed there like flowers

the way my father explained
his wife’s cancer as if it were
ice the way his voice fractured

in college my boyfriend’s father
tried to free a horse
with hooves stuck in a cattle guard

then it reared from the sparks
each leg snapped like a matchstick
and it collapsed into ashes

why does this swarm
of bees hang from a tree limb
like a chest without ribs

and why do cracked ceramics
when repaired with gold lacquer
seem to glimmer between the seams

somewhere the wings
of a resting monarch
close and open like eyelids

a fuse
is being lit

somewhere a snake
slips outside of his skin
as he slips his jaw open


by Mag Gabbert

maybe we find ships
Romantic because that word is
both a noun and a verb

I once took a trip
on a cruise with an Olympic-
size pool that floated flat
above the sea

then my grandmother
and I took a ferry to the shore
to look at gardens

her blood sugar dipped low
and she forgot what to call
the flowers or the city
we were in Oslo

she kept asking
are we doing the right thing

now her thoughts trail
behind me
a wake
I keep on crossing

other nouns that are verbs
sink       treat        wish

maybe I want
an out-of-body experience
like hers

beam       blossom
fathom       lure

even when you and I
fall asleep holding hands
I still       drift       away flotsam
on the beach

I smell the stems the floating leaves
a vase of my grandmother’s
even though it sits empty

you say it’s okay
to cut some things
away from their body

I’m at the edge
of a pier before morning
reeling and casting

I think

how often has the vessel
of this body
been filled up to its lip

      buoy       slip

how often

Mag Gabbert holds a PhD in creative writing from Texas Tech University and an MFA from the University of California at Riverside. Her essays and poems have been published in 32 Poems, Stirring, The Rumpus, Thrush, Anomaly, Phoebe, Birmingham Poetry Review, and many other journals. Mag teaches creative writing at Southern Methodist University and for Writing Workshops Dallas; she serves as an associate editor for Iron Horse Literary Review and for Underblong Journal. For more information, please visit maggabbert.com.