The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Last Human Heart by Allison Joseph


In my dreams I am always drowning,
always that scared girl, toes curled over
the edge of a public pool, suit straps
sliding off my shoulders, fearful

all the boys will see her flat chest,
ruffled two-piece suit soggy, sweaty.
Always the water churns an ugly
blue, chlorine gagging my breathing,

making me turn my head and cough
like at the doctor’s, except no kindly
nurse hands me a sucker here.
Instead, I’m the sucker—so afraid

of sinking that I’m ripe for any
troublemaking boy to trip and push
me into that city pool where the signs
above say NO RUNNING

Swim At Your Own Risk
And before I can say no,
I’m a sunken stone, heavy

but flailing, a skinny bag
of bones, terribly uncute.
Is it any wonder now, adult,
I cannot even float,

that the swim instructor, baffled,
wonders aloud how can you run
and bike but not swim?
I laugh, tell her I don’t trust water,

and really, I don’t—it lies about
how deep it is, comes crashing
uninvited into basements,
aids and abets hurricanes.

No one should trust anything
that beautiful that causes
that much damage, anything

capable of bloating you up,
soaking you dead, leaving
you wasted on the shore.

This selection comes from The Last Human Heart, available from Diode Editions. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Leah Silvieus.

Allison Joseph lives, writes, and teaches in Carbondale, Illinois, where is she is part of the creative writing faculty at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The author of many books and chapbooks of poetry, she is the widow of the poet and editor Jon Tribble, to whom THE LAST HUMAN HEART is dedicated.

Leah Silvieus was born in South Korea and adopted to the U.S. at three-months old. She grew up in small towns in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley and western Colorado. She is the author of Anemochory (Hyacinth Girl Press), Season of Dares (Bull City Press), Arabilis (Sundress Publications) and co-editor with Lee Herrick of the poetry anthology, The World I Leave You: Asian American Poets on Faith and Spirit (Orison Books). She is a recipient of awards and fellowships from Kundiman, The Academy of American Poets, and Fulbright and serves as a mentor on The Brooklyn Poets Bridge. A 2019-2020 National Book Critics Circle Emerging Fellow, Leah serves as a senior books editor at Hyphen magazine and an associate editor at Marginalia Review of Books. Her reviews and criticism have appeared in the Harvard Review OnlineThe Believer, and elsewhere.  
She holds a BA from Whitworth University, an MFA from the University of Miami, and is currently an MAR candidate in Religion and Literature at Yale Divinity School/Institute of Sacred Music. Prior to Yale, she spent several years traveling between New York and Florida as a yacht chief stewardess.


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