The Battle of Maryville





the men outside 

are men outside.  

Valentine wonders  

if it is always 

the same men outside 

if they   want  

the same thing.   

they want to come 

in. the locked room.

the occupied body.   

she muses   it is the long road 

back to a mother, the baby  

who turns at birth, who knocks. 

there is a crack in the display 

case’s idea of itself    outside 

naked knuckles shiver together  

their towels half-slung around waists  

or flicking like tongues  

at the backs of legs.  

Valentine understands 

that to some boys  

no is an act of aggression.  

voices are thrown   but miss.  

the first bottle that spins 

into the bar   lands  

with its neck pointing 

toward her   the bar dilates  

& we are film noir.  

Valentine cracks open a grin  

picks up the bottle   considers 

glass   atoms coming together  

in short order   inside the bottle 

is a bar   its lights blinking  

bewilderment its tiny women 

gazing up at her. when the 

bottle breaks the world pours 

out & the flood rises 

from our swivel backs  

arms link like chromosomes  

& Maryville is nation  

facing the door that leads 

to every door & what is a door 

but the only way home. 







what circus what menagerie. 

Dudz wonders how war 

can be civil, while Jack 

contemplates the quantum 

physics of fighting  

if on a molecular level 

every woman here is  

inside the ring of her  

blood cell waiting  

for the bell, but Angel 

o Angel, her white 

fire kindling, walks forward 

knowing her fear is  

a dress she can no longer 

fit into. Around her 

the bar convulses. Angel 

knows when fists fly 

they do not return 

not even for seeds 

on windowsills. 

she holds her whole  

self against the door 

the weight of  


& for a moment 

she is a child 

telling the wind 

to go home 

a girl 

punching water  

but fists startle 

easily, flock 

their murmuration 

making the shape 

of men pushing 

into a room. 




the men bring the forest

in with them & in their dark

thinkings, animals hunt

themselves & girls in red

hoods turn to thank them

there is something wild

in their civility.

ladies, they say, ladies

their faces red, white

& blue, ladies.




Jack Catch


Jack Catch rolls back her sleeves

then the skin on her forearms,

cartilage, the muscle, throws a

femur at the men

throws early adolescence

throws a girl at the men

who catch everything

& understand nothing.

she stands her ground

throwing air

handful after handful

until the night blues

& gasps.






Dudizile is tired

of stories that end

like this, what is free

is given a high rise

what is other is given

a new dress,

the gentrification

of fucking.

The men who break

into the bar are men

she has known

all her life. is that a

father over there, an elder

brother? is that the boy

who sat behind her

in school, on the bus

who walks beside her

each night

are these the men

who are always behind her?

Dudizile shrugs

picks up her pint

slowly sips

wipes her lips

on her sleeve

whispers to the glass

& sets it free.




here we are again

women pushing men

out of their bodies

how many women

does it take

to make a mother.




poor men

they had forgotten

that if you

punch a woman

6 more grow

from the wound.



from C+nto and Othered Poems (The Westbourne Press, 2021), © Joelle Taylor 2021, used by permission of the author.

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