Wordview 2022: Few Exceptions

Unaccustomed to my vacant life, I come slowly 

Untethered 

as if treading on birds. We are imperfect 

instruments—I make up my mind 

to read Ulysses out of spite, again, 

and pay to spend time in a greenhouse, 

ironically. 

Under its ribs, which push 

into the sky, 

the mist falls across my face, hissing. 

The fronds of an overgrown cabbage 

cup my head from above, 

 as though blessing me. I type 

worst dildo??? with an image 

of a tumescent cactus. We are imperfect 

instruments 

of one another’s desire. At the pond 

a child 

stands beside me. We gaze at the small koi 

and the stupidness of their moving 

faces, 

protruding eyes. The child says 

to his vacant mother, 

living out her own unexpectedly 

vacant life, 

je voudrais une grande feuille, 

 which to me, so recently
blessed,
is all the more profound 

because French is the language 

of unapologetic aristocracy, condescension, 

and my immense personal laziness. I am a sprinter, 

intellectually speaking, and language 

acquisition requires 

a commitment to the throughline. 

Somewhere in the fracturing past, 

my father takes me to the pet store 

in the woods. There are few exceptions 

to what can be found in the woods 

near the ocean, or by 

the airport in my hometown. The pet store has miniature 

ponies. 

If you are reading this, you are a person, 

who was once a child 

so you can imagine 

my delight. 

A foal is born, the hair of its forehead grows 

Long 

in the yellow spiral of a sun. When my rabbits die 

my father gets fish and we return 

often to the pet store, at a loss 

of what else to do with one another 

We spontaneously choose a beautiful fish. 

It is a fighting fish 

and it takes chunks out of the guppies 

and ingests 

their tiny, accidental babies. 

 It is around this time that my memory
splinters. 

It is possible that we allow the fighting fish 

to continue to consume 

its compatriots, drifting alone 

through the emptying water 

until long after 

my father’s death. Equally possible that we 

exile him 

and that the other fish 

die 

from quieter neglect. 

Does the trajectory matter when the outcome 

is the same. 

What I recall with certainty 

is that the fighting fish survives. 

It lives 

in my friend’s front room, where the sunlight 

turns its tail fins 

into a stained glass window. 

 

Originally published by Mud Season Review

Poem recorded as part of Poetry Archive Now: Wordview 2022. Used by permission of author.

Wordview 2022 Winners

Poetry Archive Now! was established in 2020 to enable us to gather recordings from a much wider pool of talented poets from the UK and ...

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Kendra Mills

Kendra Mills lives in Washington DC and Massachusetts. She is a recipient of the Elisa Brickner Poetry Prize. Her work can also be found in The Rialto, Moria Literary Magazine, and Mud Season Review.

A special thank you to our WordView 2021 poets.

Chair of the Judging Panel, Joelle Taylor, says: "We were thrilled by the range and scope of the poetry and techniques explored throughout the wide submissions. I have said before that to write a poem is an act of resistance but to then perform it as well is a revolution. It takes a bravery to face the page, and a further one to stand by your words. While we’ve all become more used to filming ourselves over the pandemic, all of us were deeply aware of that courage.

Often when on a judging panel we find ourselves faced with impossible decisions. If you can imagine, after sifting, it’s as though a hundred people have crossed the finish line at precisely the same moment but there are only three medals. How do we come to these decisions? Through the objective unpicking of the poems, through our individual passions, through a consideration of narratives, especially those lesser heard. We come to it through uneasy negotiation and through heart, and above all through our shared love and understanding of the possibilities of poetry.

Our honest applause goes to all who submitted, and I hope you can hear it.

Congratulations to those we selected. We hope to see you all again soon."

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