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Three Poems
Without Harmony, a Cafila

Their knees knock the shudder of bone while their hands
fist their dresses into peonies. A man cradles his nose
in one hand, his other hand props open his jaw, the whole
of his face agape. 

                           His dark eyes 
bury their steps from the darkness. Through blood-let bodies of widows 
their feet absorb the metal of shells, the tack of trees, the sound of bellowing. 
Smearing their faces into mud, their bodies 
                                                           crumble in on themselves. 

The light of their eyes shrivels as a well blooms with water. 
Resting in the shade of a palm, their shrapnel bones crack, 


Pushing Forward Unmolested

“That day the honour of England’s daughters was outraged in the streets.”
—Henry Mead

They say our bodies were flung high and filled. They say we were shredded, 
our hair torn to stuff dolls, to start fires. Their kindling words—they say our hoops were raised 
                                                          above our heads. 
                                                                      (Above our heads.) 
The lights of the fires were the stars in the sky. Packed without fear, 
Only Women Are Safe on This Road. They say we were limbless, our bodies easels
for their stretched canvases. Our spines, the scrawl of foreign letters, 
            broken by their brushstrokes. 

They say our honor—a fishbone braid tied with the ribbon of man— 
but the maps of blood in our hair were not our own. We wash
the red out of the river, then sip water
from our hands.


  Map Projections on the Body

My occipital lobe descends to images of torn
skin, compounded bones that rake the earth. Marks
hashed on my back for each day I cannot locate myself
in reality. Ravines between lobes
where I find my mouth
calling out to reorient 
on the islands of this brain. 

I cannot cover a continent with this spongy sphere, 
cannot project my mind’s flat map
of blood or its sharp seize of pain
onto other topography. Location

is an illness spreading 
through my tissue in attempt to
locate itself on the borders
of my brain.

Kristin Aardsma is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago and an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Bat City Review, I Can’t Be Your Girlfriend, Pebble Lake Review, and Black Clock, among others.