Orphan Mother

Hugging you goodbye I become my grandmother dying,
tall-thin and curved to the earth
like a rotted tree limb.
(“I carry you in my heart always”
written on a photograph of you
two in summer, in dying.)

I am sorry being born
once was not enough.
I tear through you again.
Airport terminals,
pages stained from parting.

Talking on the phone after work,
I stretch an arm up until
the blood drains into my eye.
The moon is too bright tonight.

Crouched in the shadow
of the house, you smoke
yourself a shield
to soften arrows of starlight
shot from your moonless sky.

I am home when I inhale deeply
every night you kiss me,
sipping addiction like warm milk,
bundled in the smoke
of all the lives you might have had.


Iva Karoly-Lister lives in Anchorage, Alaska, where she grew up. She is obsessed with the human body, the color blue, Dolly Parton, and her elderly dog. Iva graduated college in 2015 and has spent the last two years between cubicles and canyons. She can be contacted at iva.karolylister@gmail.com.