This selection, chosen by guest editor Katie Manning, is from Not Flowers by Noreen Ocampo, released by Variant Lit in 2022.
I miss our old backyard & the way everything grew into everything / my father’s terracotta bricks in careful arches / seeping into the earth / the trees whispering / in forbidden corners of the wood / the patch where the ghost-playground was / if you looked hard enough / despite our street name / we didn’t grow peaches / no one ever did / but birds & squirrels / ate off my blueberry plants / before I could chase them / into the next morning / & fill a green-striped bowl that no longer exists / we grew long / long beans that caught all strangers’ eyes / & / I wanted to be something / like that / something other than soft skin for mosquito bites / I grew up to want something / other than my mother spraying sunscreen on my back / my father plucking weeds until the grass burned blue / my brother recoiling from a dragonfly / bumblebee / fairy & darting back inside / but I didn’t yet understand / how silent / sudden / goodbyes often are
Noreen Ocampo is a Filipino American writer and poet from metro Atlanta. Her collection Not Flowers won the 2021 Variant Lit Microchap Contest, and her work can also be found in Palette Poetry, Sundog Lit, and Depth Cues, among others. She holds a BA in English from Emory University and currently studies poetry in the MFA program at The University of Mississippi, where she is working to document and elevate stories of Filipino Americans in the Deep South.
Katie Manning is the author of Hereverent (Agape Editions), Tasty Other (winner of the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award), and six chapbook collections, including How to Play (Louisiana Literature Press) and 28,065 Nights (River Glass Books). Her poem “What to Expect” was featured on the Poetry Unbound podcast, and her poems have appeared in HAD, Poet Lore, SWWIM, Stirring, Thimble, Verse Daily, and many other venues. Katie is the founder and editor-in-chief of Whale Road Review and a professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University.
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