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Skull Rock

The memories of the past skitter and vanish and in the ‘present’, the poet’s voice echoes in the darkness but ‘no sounds return.'

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I did not swallow my tears.

I stared at a wall of photos of our daughter

playing on rocks at Joshua Tree National Park

The saltwater ran down my neck

one last desert storm

to overcome

I should have known.

There were

no framed photos of us in the house.

The one wedding photo we framed were my hands

wrapped around your back.

trying to hold on to something I suppose, but

so mysterious, so unnamed: a back.

it could have been anyone’s hands,

anyone’s back.

One lone photo of me at Skull Rock,

a hiker in hardness surrounded

by the sun’s apathy, the wind and dirt

I see the white shine of the rock’s forehead now,

bright, irreversible, like walking

headlong into glass.

I’m back in that cave and it’s

the present and my voice echoes

in the darkness, no sounds return.

Image by Windows

Jennifer MacBain-Stephens went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and now lives in Iowa where she is landlocked. Her fifth, full length poetry collection, 'Pool Parties' is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press in 2023. She is also the author of fifteen chapbooks and enjoys exploring how to blend creativity with nurturing the earth. Her recent works appeared in The Westchester Review, Cleaver, Dream Pop, and Grist. She is the director of the monthly reading series 'Today You are Perfect', sponsored by the non-profit Iowa City Poetry. Find more of her work at

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