The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Nerve Chorus by Willa Carroll

This selection, chosen by guest curator Heather Leigh, is from Nerve Chorus by Willa Carroll, released by The Word Works in 2018. 


content warning for cancer

Sounds like a species of coral,
or a flute carved from animal bone.
Not lesions on my father’s left lung,
sheath of hard plaque tumors,
flesh trophies from his labors.
Fixed boiler pipes rife with asbestos,
installed tiles of this fireproof mineral
in housing projects now crumbling.
Worked decades as a one-man show
with a truck of tools & a flimsy mask
barely filtering drywall & joint compound
shot through with tremolite filaments.
Millimeter fibers latticed his lungs,
amassed cells in crazed refrain,
rinds of sharp grit binding his breath.
Dust clouds followed him home.
I costumed myself in his work clothes.

Willa Carroll is the author of Nerve Chorus (The Word Works), one of Entropy Magazine’s Best Poetry Books of 2018 and a SPD Bestseller. Her poems have appeared in AGNI, LARB Quarterly Journal, Narrative, The Rumpus, The Slowdown with Tracy K. Smith, Tin House, and elsewhere. A finalist for The Tomaž Šalamun Prize and The Georgia Poetry Prize, she won Narrative Magazine’s Third Annual Poetry Contest and Tupelo Quarterly’s TQ7 Poetry Prize. Her poetry videos and multimedia collaborations have been featured in Interim, Narrative, TriQuarterly, Writers Resist, and other venues. She holds a MFA from Bennington Writing Seminars and lives in New York City.

Heather Leigh is a queer, disabled writer and editor who has been working within Chicago’s publishing world for more than twenty years, editing poetry for the likes of Curbside Splendor and reading prose and poetry for Uncanny Magazine. She has recently began to focus on her own publication goals between semesters teaching English, writing, reading, and journalism at various midwestern community colleges. She is a three-time SAFTA fellowship recipient, a multiple resident of Firefly Farms, and most recently had a speculative horror story published in Bloodlet, an anthology by CultureCult Press. She lives in Chicago with a retired cage-fighting poet, two rescue cats names after Buffy watchers, enjoying life with the family that caught her by surprise.


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