What should have been but never was.jpg


Ela Thompson

transciption of bottled letter 1

found in orbit of Asteroid 105

you lily-white soft who tugs the sea; you lantern in the black
who draws light emerald moths that clung to creamy birches
in the day— all these you call to you, only to push each back
as you fade shyly from the sky— new & hidden from our sight.
how should i court you, faithless lover— with tall reeds of larkspur
or purple lilac? a single narcissus or handfuls of plump gardenias?

i watched you from between dark stalks of Poa as you set loose
your dog into the thick— i do not care if you say your heart belongs
only to Orion. what does a hunter know of love? he sits in brush & waits
for the deer to pad closer, strikes her in the heart & lets her bleed
out in his arms. his passion is unsustainable & soon he finds some other prey…

i am a gardener, i tend to each wild thing & will it bloom.
let me, at least, press those tears away with green thumbs.


space archaeologist's note (III)

I was sixteen when I realized
I no longer recognized the face in the mirror.
Those round moon eyes, soft rosy cheeks,
nub of a chin— who did they belong to?

There were these lumps on my chest
where there had been nothing.
I needed staking up, so I wrapped
myself in cotton strips like twine.

My hips had begun to expand the same way
tomatoes bulge when sun-ripened.
I was afraid they might split open,
grow black rot, & the ants would come.

& the ants did come.
I— mealy, I— tomato rot,
but what do ants care about soft spots?
They eat whatever sweet juice they can.

Even now I shudder— mandibles
clenched around that tender flesh,
the soft stroke of antenna—
I— rotten fruit.


to Pleione


call out to me, momma, across this void,
call me by my name. say, taygete
hold it low in your mouth so i know you mean it.

momma, i want you to be proud of me.
i want you to put on your nymph-shape,
point up to the sky
& say, there’s my boy! he’s a star.


it doesn’t feel fair, i know, but
don’t tell people you’ve lost your little girl
& don’t tell me,  you’re a woman now,
when you want me to rub color on my cheeks,
put my hair up, wear strings of pearls.
i’m not looking for a man, i’m hoping you’ll see one.

momma, i’m sorry this body isn’t right.
i contorted theses ribs trying to correct
it with cotton. it’s not your fault, so
don’t burn me so blue about it.

momma, i’m so sorry, i am.
i am knee deep in butter white asphodels
& wherever i walk the rue grows,
but i’m not sorry to be me—
these stag horns glitter
even in the afterglow of supernova.

Ela Thompson is second year MFA candidate at George Mason University, & is the poetry editor of So to Speak, a feminist literary journal. A few of their honors include: winner of the 2017 Mark Craver Poetry Award & finalist of the 2016 Jane Lumley Prize. Their current work has been featured or is forthcoming in Juked, DELUGE, Hermeneutic Chaos, Spy Kids Review, & elsewhere.

JD Thornton