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. 


My mother is best kept sideways.
My mother fits inside a baby tooth.
My mother is mountain.
She levitates the Pentagon in 1967.
                        Wakes up the White House at 6am, chanting:
                        Hey, Hey, LBJ! How many babies have you burned today!
My mother makes masks out of clay, feathers, & twine,
                        swallows antique bone buttons,
                        rents an unfurnished dollhouse,
                        hides under a horsehair wig.
She’s a nude figure model, a hot dog stand manager,
                        a census worker, a gunslinger in pirouette, a single mater.
She buys our sneakers at Star Market Grocery,
                        hocks the piano, gives away the cat.
Her dead ex-boyfriend smelled like bourbon & pine.
                        My mother studies modern witchcraft to learn a few tricks,
                        grows rhubarb & lemon balm,
                        hides her gray with Nice ‘n Easy,
                        the shade called Brunette on Fire,
                        ignites a Merit Ultra Light,
                        can’t hear my knock on the smoke screen.
She quit years ago, the boomerang now blooms in her chest.
Her heart is molasses in a burlap sack.
Her lungs are used envelopes, torn & burned with the old letters.

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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