Laura Long


When I was five I played in a torn 
pale-green gown
drizzled with sequins
swinging from loose threads. 
I didn't know this was a grown-up 
frock from some rag pile,

I loved how the skirt 
dragged behind me 
like a glorious beaver tail 
and glossy buttons
winked down the front.
Maybe the gown's green 

is why one afternoon in the sea 
of summer grass 
a baby praying mantis 
jumped on my arm and crouched 
amid the hairs—a stilted creature
made of thread and light

with a triangular head pinned on.
When one of its bulging eyes 
stared straight into mine 
for a long instant, my head fizzled
into a dandelion puff and
a breeze whistled in.


From the Book of Rain

As clouds smudge the sky
over newly greened woods
            pricked by wild pinks,

an old book swells with air
and pages unglue from the binding
            clotted with a concoction 

of marrow from a horse's 
broken femur, a mare that pranced
            on rocky roads once

upon a time. The mist recalls her 
in the field, how she stepped
            gray in gray rain, how

her nostrils quivered to read 
the grasses her teeth ripped,
            her foal sketched within,

the slaughter house never 
in her mind, her skin pricking
            with joy in the spring rain.

Every time the rain pauses, 
warblers dart amid slick leaves,
            exclamation points set free.


Interrupted by Blue

I've tried to get a thought pinned
precisely to paper all morning 
but I can't, so I stare out and see it's turned 

to November in May—after spells 
of rain the sun breaks in then more rain 
slants down. The tree trunks remember 

winter and how to turn dark, 
but their small new leaves 
glow. Each leaf seems 

a lamp, lit from within,
a shaped green that floats 
on brooding air. I go back to brooding

as if polishing old silverware,
rubbing the puddles of spoons,
when a bluebird

swoops through the tarnished air
and glows more blue than seems 
possible, as mysterious

as a coin from an unknown land
that falls back into water 
the instant I wake up. 


Laura Long is co-editor of the anthology Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia (West Virginia UP, 2017). She is author of a novel, Out of Peel Tree (West Virginia UP, 2014), and two poetry collections. Her writing has received a James Michener Fellowship and appears in Shenandoah, Southern Review, and many other magazines. She teaches at Lynchburg College in Virginia. 


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