The Wardrobe's Best Dressed: Honeyfish by Lauren K. Alleyne

Honeyfish

The catch is so fresh, each bite is blue—
the sea still in it, and settling on your tongue

like prayer. This is what it means to eat,
you think, to abandon utensils for the grace

of fingers, to hold flesh against flesh,
hands slick with what will become

inseparable from your own thrumming
body. As a child, you loved fry dry,

the small fish you ate whole, and imagined
them swimming in you, your belly

full as an ocean. Now you know better—
that nothing consumed lives on as before.

When the bone, thin as a wish,
lodges itself in the pink flesh of your mouth,

refuses offerings of bread or water,
becomes an ache that will not be moved,

you understand: this is what it means
to be a body—that what is taken in

takes root in ways beyond your choosing—
a single bite and you carry the ocean in your throat.

This selection comes from the book, Honeyfish, available from New Issues Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Natalie Giarratano.

LAUREN K. ALLEYNE is the author of two collections of poetry, Difficult Fruit (Peepal Tree Press 2014), and Honeyfish (New Issues & Peepal Tree, 2019). Her work has appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, The Atlantic, Ms. Muse, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Interviewing the Caribbean, and the Crab Orchard Review. Recent honors for her work include a 2017 Philip Freund Alumni Prize for Excellence in Publishing (Cornell University), the 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Prize, and a Picador Guest Professorship in Literature (University of Leipzig, Germany, 2015). She is currently the assistant director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center and an associate professor of English at James Madison University. Twitter Handle: @poetLKA

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway PoetryTupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her partner and daughter and is the city’s poet laureate. 

The Wardrobe's Best Dressed: Honeyfish by Lauren K. Alleyne

Blue

The instant you plan to put your head into the water, your mother’s voice bells in
your skull don’t go getting on wild in the water, eh. They say at 32 you begin to
become your mother, and not a week past that birthday her admonition pulls your
body back from a juicy plunge into the Aegean’s seductive blue. In your childhood
she refused permission to any outings involving water; you think you a fish, she’d
say, and my heart can’t handle bad news. A woman now, you know the force she
feared, the way water can draw you out; how easy it is to go and go, and never miss
the earth beneath your feet until you need it; how sometimes, it gives you no way
back. You dive in anyway, the way she always has, headfirst and with a whoop of
glee. You know, too, what she loved about the sea—how it is impossible to be
burdened in it, how it can strip the body down to its purest, most joyful self. She
knew the salt kiss cravings in you: when you have to go, I will take you. You swim
out now, her voice looped around you like a lifesaver. There is nowhere you can go
that it will not find you.

This selection comes from the book, Honeyfish, available from New Issues Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Natalie Giarratano.

LAUREN K. ALLEYNE is the author of two collections of poetry, Difficult Fruit (Peepal Tree Press 2014), and Honeyfish (New Issues & Peepal Tree, 2019). Her work has appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, The Atlantic, Ms. Muse, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Interviewing the Caribbean, and the Crab Orchard Review. Recent honors for her work include a 2017 Philip Freund Alumni Prize for Excellence in Publishing (Cornell University), the 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Prize, and a Picador Guest Professorship in Literature (University of Leipzig, Germany, 2015). She is currently the assistant director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center and an associate professor of English at James Madison University. Twitter Handle: @poetLKA

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway PoetryTupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her partner and daughter and is the city’s poet laureate. 

The Wardrobe's Best Dressed: Honeyfish by Lauren K. Alleyne

Self-Portrait with Burning Crosses

Dubuque, IA. April, 2016.

There isn’t enough water
to make a mirror,
enough light to give back
the faces wearing night
like armor. I’ve got
nothing to hold on to
in this white ass town
with its white ass worries
where someone decides
to ignite America
into some again-burning
greatness. I’m in the capital
talking poetry and witness
when I read the news
and try to put out the flames
that crawl across my skin,
forget it. But my tongue tastes
like ash. My hands wisp into smoke,
hold nothing but history. Fury
explodes bright and without
mercy: I become the burning.

Who struck the match? Who
pulled out this white hood,
this fiery robe? A student?
That woman in the bank,
with glasses and frosted hair?
The brown-toothed old man
who shuffles down main street
every morning at eight?
Was it the surly couple
across the street or the one
who smiles wide and distant
at once? Was it a lone wolf
or a gang of pimpled teenage boys
regurgitating the diet of Fox news
and hate they’d been fed their whole lives?

I’m a woman with skin
that summons crosses and flame.
Which is to say I am always burning.
Which is to say I do not have enough
tears to put myself out.

This selection comes from the book, Honeyfish, available from New Issues Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Natalie Giarratano.

LAUREN K. ALLEYNE is the author of two collections of poetry, Difficult Fruit (Peepal Tree Press 2014), and Honeyfish (New Issues & Peepal Tree, 2019). Her work has appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, The Atlantic, Ms. Muse, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Interviewing the Caribbean, and the Crab Orchard Review. Recent honors for her work include a 2017 Philip Freund Alumni Prize for Excellence in Publishing (Cornell University), the 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Prize, and a Picador Guest Professorship in Literature (University of Leipzig, Germany, 2015). She is currently the assistant director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center and an associate professor of English at James Madison University. Twitter Handle: @poetLKA

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway PoetryTupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her partner and daughter and is the city’s poet laureate. 

The Wardrobe's Best Dressed: Honeyfish by Lauren K. Alleyne

Elegy for a Fish-as-Weathervane

Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA

You were meant for a different blue,
you cod, mackerel, trout, or just idea
of fish, hoisted up, spiked through
the center to test, of all things, air.

Beached in sky, sun beaten, tarnished,
a shred of cloud caught in your gasping
mouth, your turning an illusion of motion
so close to the one for which you were born.

No schools for you there, in that lonely,
elevated place, only its perpetual piercing—
you alien among birds with your useless gills,
useless fins. Caught, darling. Trophy. Stranded

so close to God, you spin in the place
where prayers rise, where dreams of home
take wind and take hold of you like hooks
yanking you—now this way, now that.

This selection comes from the book, Honeyfish, available from New Issues Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Natalie Giarratano.

LAUREN K. ALLEYNE is the author of two collections of poetry, Difficult Fruit (Peepal Tree Press 2014), and Honeyfish (New Issues & Peepal Tree, 2019). Her work has appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, The Atlantic, Ms. Muse, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Interviewing the Caribbean, and the Crab Orchard Review. Recent honors for her work include a 2017 Philip Freund Alumni Prize for Excellence in Publishing (Cornell University), the 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Prize, and a Picador Guest Professorship in Literature (University of Leipzig, Germany, 2015). She is currently the assistant director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center and an associate professor of English at James Madison University. Twitter Handle: @poetLKA

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway PoetryTupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her partner and daughter and is the city’s poet laureate. 

The Wardrobe's Best Dressed: Honeyfish by Lauren K. Alleyne

Post-Verdict Renga

For Trayvon

Provincetown, MA


Heat. Bodies gleaming with sweat and sun. Day pressing itself against everything:
unforgiving. I am walking down this street thinking of another walk in another city,
of a boy who never makes it home. I, too, am armed with thirst and a craving for
sweetness; I, too, wear his brown skin and do not belong here, to this city of leisure
and narrow streets. Fear passes through me, a phantom, and is gone. Overhead, flags
flutter in the thick, salty air. Not guilty, they say. Not guilty. Not guilty. Not guilty.
Not guilty. Not guilty.

Beginning is red—
a door, a car, the bowed lips,
a nameless flower.
*
I have so few names for things
here, I fall into silence.
Two men, black as God,
their shirts golden as morning.
No words between us.
*
So much passes in the glance
that the throat cannot muster.
Three headless torsos
in a store window. A light
trick makes men of them.
*
In this city of flesh, you
can almost forget the ghosts

Fat daylilies crown
long green stalks, their orange heads
the color of grief.
*
No candlelight vigils here:
only the living, living.
He walks, oak brown, bald,
belly like a commandment—
I am here: make way
*
Nothing I say will save you,
but how can I say nothing?
Thick black curls cut close,
buttoned black shirt. Caramel face
diamonded with sweat.
*
a dark, ageless face
wise and innocent as earth—
how have you survived?

I can’t stop counting
the bodies that look like yours:
five this whole morning.
*
I can’t say if this matters,
just that I saw, I did see

This selection comes from the book, Honeyfish, available from New Issues Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Natalie Giarratano.

LAUREN K. ALLEYNE is the author of two collections of poetry, Difficult Fruit (Peepal Tree Press 2014), and Honeyfish (New Issues & Peepal Tree, 2019). Her work has appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, The Atlantic, Ms. Muse, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Interviewing the Caribbean, and the Crab Orchard Review. Recent honors for her work include a 2017 Philip Freund Alumni Prize for Excellence in Publishing (Cornell University), the 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Prize, and a Picador Guest Professorship in Literature (University of Leipzig, Germany, 2015). She is currently the assistant director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center and an associate professor of English at James Madison University. Twitter Handle: @poetLKA

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway PoetryTupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her partner and daughter and is the city’s poet laureate. 

The Wardrobe's Best Dressed: How to Dress a Fish by Abigail Chabitnoy

AS FAR AS RECORDS GO

I.
The women in this story never had a chance, did they Michael?
It’s sons we tell stories for.
Their skins and grasses and birch
bark rarely survive
the archaeological record.
I found your sister in another record,
in a family archive as it were
of dubious descent—

82 iii. Nikifor (1897–1897)
Occupation: Infant

A grave shaped hole.
Possibly, an empty house.
(a painted box
sealed tight against
the weather: )

II.
Woman are always talking about the weather—
“Our people have made it through lots of storms and disasters
for thousands of years. All the troubles since the [promyshlenniki] . . .
like one long stretch of bad weather . . . like
everything . . . this storm will pass over some day.”
(On the island without trees, with wind no man
could walk against, it rains two hundred and fifty days of the year.)

III.
Across the sea certain women were believed
to have power over the weather:
when weather was inclement, the women were exposed
naked to the elements until weather changed—
or they died.
(But I read this in some academic work or coffee table book
on Aleut or Unangan art, so there might be a connection besides

Church records show—

IV.
Then there was Lillian Zellers—
What kind of woman married an Indian
in those days?

(It was in the papers:) INDIAN MARRIES WHITE GIRL
ALASKAN GRADUATE OF CALISLE MAKES
LEBANON YOUNG WOMAN HIS BRIDE.

I imagine someone in her family was tall—
there’s no accounting for our height if she were not tall.
Or am I mistaking mothers again?

Even this is your story, Michael. There was no bearing daughters.

I suppose there must be somebody alive
somebody would know—

but letters are an accreted loss
like skins and bark and mothers
appeal to me as mystery.

V.
There was no bearing daughters. Turns out
my black-haired grandma was no Indian
after all. Not Aleut.

I never met the men
who gave me their bones.

VI.
My mother was a Mole. (Names have been changed
but records are rare
-ly consistent—
enough blood to trace,
enough bodies in marked graves to remember,
enough, enough.)

And now I’ve gone and changed my name for legal reasons
letting down my sons and daughters.
(My husband would not have let them be salmon-fishers
anyways.)

VII.
No, the women in this story never had a chance, Nikifor.
It’s fathers we make bodies for.

This selection comes from the book, How to Dress a Fish, available from Wesleyan University Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Natalie Giarratano.

Abigail Chabitnoy earned her MFA in poetry at Colorado State University and was a 2016 Peripheral Poets fellow and 2020 Kenyon Writers Workshop Peter Taylor Fellow. She has been a resident of Caldera and the Wrangell Arts Center, and her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Boston Review, Tin House, Gulf Coast, LitHub, and Red Ink, among others. She is a Koniag descendant and member of the Tangirnaq Native Village in Kodiak, Alaska, was raised in Pennsylvania, and is currently a consultant for a company in CO that works to facilitate tribal self-determination. Her debut poetry collection, How to Dress a Fish, was released from Wesleyan University Press. Visit her website at salmonfisherpoet.com for more information. Twitter Handle: @achabitnoy

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway PoetryTupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her partner and daughter and is the city’s poet laureate. 

The Wardrobe's Best Dressed: How to Dress a Fish by Abigail Chabitnoy

BEFORE THERE WAS A TRAIN

I built my home
from perfumed skins
and crooked bones
far from the rotting boat
They took
the wrong shape
Sod not ice not body
not Other
Nikiiq
Engluq nikiimek patumauq
The wrong tongue
By the time you read this
I will have forgotten how to say
the house is covered with sod
or home
Part of me wishes it had sunk
it sank
it is sinking
but these sentences have not been written
Only, allrani suu’ut caqainek pukugtaartut
sometimes people salvage some stuff

She coughed and the women came out
violently
She opened her mouth and coughed out
a small bird
She coughed out matted fur
and fish with faces
and the rocks
she had tried to eat
until
there was nothing left inside her
but water and red
She coughed out the water
and the sea rushed to fill
the thirsting places
She took back fire
black fire-rock
and wrapped her many-body
in mountain
still and moving
many and
one
She wrapped her body in mountain
and dug her feet beneath the water
she spilled
where soft
she could feel a hardness moving
outward

She could feel many hearts
hard hearts
each small disturbance
press
the small rooms of her chest
Each sound in her chest
a heart
a rock
dislodging soft in the water
until
She was no body

 

 

 

This selection comes from the book, How to Dress a Fish, available from Wesleyan University Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Natalie Giarratano.

Abigail Chabitnoy earned her MFA in poetry at Colorado State University and was a 2016 Peripheral Poets fellow and 2020 Kenyon Writers Workshop Peter Taylor Fellow. She has been a resident of Caldera and the Wrangell Arts Center, and her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Boston Review, Tin House, Gulf Coast, LitHub, and Red Ink, among others. She is a Koniag descendant and member of the Tangirnaq Native Village in Kodiak, Alaska, was raised in Pennsylvania, and is currently a consultant for a company in CO that works to facilitate tribal self-determination. Her debut poetry collection, How to Dress a Fish, was released from Wesleyan University Press. Visit her website at salmonfisherpoet.com for more information. Twitter Handle: @achabitnoy

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway PoetryTupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her partner and daughter and is the city’s poet laureate. 

 

The Wardrobe's Best Dressed: How to Dress a Fish by Abigail Chabitnoy

QAWANGUQ WITH HOUSE

There was a house I needed
to go
I needed a home
to survive
to wait the fire
the flood where there were others
with other
bodies
There was earth in them
I dug
speaking
the dead with words
I dug my way back
to survive the flood
into the earth
I had to know what I didn’t know You can’t throw the fish
I didn’t know back in the water
what kind of monster was I and expect to swim—
So I dug.
I dug out a rib
and another’s rib
another
I dug deeper
until
I reached the bottom of this

house I reached the cellar
where the center was cold
where I could hide
My body full of bodies

This selection comes from the book, How to Dress a Fish, available from Wesleyan University Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Natalie Giarratano.

Abigail Chabitnoy earned her MFA in poetry at Colorado State University and was a 2016 Peripheral Poets fellow and 2020 Kenyon Writers Workshop Peter Taylor Fellow. She has been a resident of Caldera and the Wrangell Arts Center, and her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Boston Review, Tin House, Gulf Coast, LitHub, and Red Ink, among others. She is a Koniag descendant and member of the Tangirnaq Native Village in Kodiak, Alaska, was raised in Pennsylvania, and is currently a consultant for a company in CO that works to facilitate tribal self-determination. Her debut poetry collection, How to Dress a Fish, was released from Wesleyan University Press. Visit her website at salmonfisherpoet.com for more information. Twitter Handle: @achabitnoy

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway PoetryTupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her partner and daughter and is the city’s poet laureate. 

The Wardrobe's Best Dressed: How to Dress a Fish by Abigail Chabitnoy

LESSONS IN ARTICULATION

He didn’t tell us when he learned what it meant,
that they took their words from them.
If he were not an accountant, my father,
he might have been a historian. A fisherman. Or
he might have been nobody. He might have been unsettled.
Father, did you have these questions, when you were young with only
your cousin, your aunt?
Father, did your father know?
Did your father tell you,
how he and his brother were called half-breed,
how he didn’t know his father?
Did you read to your mother?
Did you read to your dog, until you could pronounce the words properly?
Did you eat Hershey’s Chocolate toast sandwiches with your father?
Did your father read aloud from his bible, or
did he keep his words from you?
Father, did you dream then of salt sweeping your lungs, of sand
and volcanic rock beneath
your feet, or snow?
Did you watch the birds as a boy for Company?
Did you try to give them names?
Father, did you play Indians?
Or were you cowboys?
How did you feel, the way your father asked your mother
for a sandwich and a beer,
and a beer,
like a man?
Mother says these things skip a generation.

I don’t remember learning these words—
deprivation, decimation, assimilation,
relocation.
I don’t remember Carlisle in my school books. Was it something
you showed me, Father, that summer
we toured all the battlefields?
If he were not an accountant, my father,
he might have been a historian.
But there was no value in these things,
no way he could convey.
I don’t know when I learned what it meant,
they took our words from us.

This selection comes from the book, How to Dress a Fish, available from Wesleyan University Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Natalie Giarratano.

Abigail Chabitnoy earned her MFA in poetry at Colorado State University and was a 2016 Peripheral Poets fellow and 2020 Kenyon Writers Workshop Peter Taylor Fellow. She has been a resident of Caldera and the Wrangell Arts Center, and her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Boston Review, Tin House, Gulf Coast, LitHub, and Red Ink, among others. She is a Koniag descendant and member of the Tangirnaq Native Village in Kodiak, Alaska, was raised in Pennsylvania, and is currently a consultant for a company in CO that works to facilitate tribal self-determination. Her debut poetry collection, How to Dress a Fish, was released from Wesleyan University Press. Visit her website at salmonfisherpoet.com for more information. Twitter Handle: @achabitnoy

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway PoetryTupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her partner and daughter and is the city’s poet laureate. 

The Wardrobe's Best Dressed: How to Dress a Fish by Abigail Chabitnoy

Fox Hunting

Last winter I [had a thought, go out],ii hunt foxes.
iii
, and, having come
to the opening of a little hut , I entered it
and apparently there was a fox there, I didn’t
see , but when it was seen and pointed to me
I could shoot
I ran
, but running after it I
finally lost my breath
under a rock,
pulled from there
, then I walked and walked
, and seemed to
be a fox but didn’t see , but
started to run again, shot , so
I came back two .
After I went to sleep,
the day got up again
to hunt fox [.] I passed
to the other side
one fox
up the hill
thinking how I was
a piece
daylight the hill
the isthmus,
the north side,
a storm

the sea,
the canyon
a fire a little cave
the night
entered
until the morning,
the wind
a pit in the snow
slept in until the morning, daylight
descended
from
foxes
and steam
and went home
.
i Told by Stepan Prokopyev, Attu, August, 1909. Cylinders 25 and 26 ( four minutes and
forty-five seconds). Transcribed and translated into Eastern Aleut by Jochelson and
Yachmenev with the help of Stepan Prokopyev, Umnak, 1910. Of the paired lines, the first is
Attuan, the second Eastern Aleut. The written text differs in several spots from the cylinders.
New York Public Library Manuscript 61.
ii Contamination (or copying mistake).
iii Some words missing

 

This selection comes from the book, How to Dress a Fish, available from Wesleyan University Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Natalie Giarratano.

Abigail Chabitnoy earned her MFA in poetry at Colorado State University and was a 2016 Peripheral Poets fellow and 2020 Kenyon Writers Workshop Peter Taylor Fellow. She has been a resident of Caldera and the Wrangell Arts Center, and her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Boston Review, Tin House, Gulf Coast, LitHub, and Red Ink, among others. She is a Koniag descendant and member of the Tangirnaq Native Village in Kodiak, Alaska, was raised in Pennsylvania, and is currently a consultant for a company in CO that works to facilitate tribal self-determination. Her debut poetry collection, How to Dress a Fish, was released from Wesleyan University Press. Visit her website at salmonfisherpoet.com for more information. Twitter Handle: @achabitnoy

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway PoetryTupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her partner and daughter and is the city’s poet laureate.