» Poetry


Because you were loved and resented

and read to and fed. Because someone

bought you books when you were good.

Because you were used by grown-ass

men. Because you never told and then

you did. Because your mother let you wear

her perfume. Because you didn’t fall

from the water tower in that speck

of a town and you didn’t die later

in the reservoir drunk on sloe gin.

You never had to learn to walk again,

there’s no cancer yet and your family

didn’t take vacations. Because you rode

in the bed of pickup trucks fast enough

to feel the sting of your sister’s hair

on your face. Because your father

was a drunk. Because you were poor.

Because your mother said so. Because

she said no. Because you snuck out.

Because you left. Because you fell in love

with a man and again with your children.

Because your dog died in your arms.
The fires are close. There are mud slides,
boulders losing purchase—a million
brutal ways for loved ones to leave you.

There’s a debt you’ll never pay down,

and it’s not that you know there’s honor

in trying, only that you were taught

by kind people who did their best,

to be grateful for what you have

and what you don’t and sometimes,

to ask for more.


Karen Harryman


Karen Harryman's work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Greensboro Review, Raleigh Review, Atticus Review, Forklift, Alaska Quarterly, Verse Daily, North American Review and The Cortland Review, among others. Her first book, Auto Mechanic's Daughter, was selected by Chris Abani in 2007 for the Black Goat Series Imprint at Akashic Books in Brooklyn.  She lives and writes in Los Angeles, where she is raising two daughters with her husband, comedy writer Kirker Butler. In her spare time she reads submissions for Los Angeles Review and Alice James Books. Before moving to Los Angeles, she lived in Kentucky for most of her life.