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A is for

by Gretchen Rockwell

A is for ​

Acacia trees are full of ants: small stinging bodies

that curl in their long thorns to deter smaller threats, 

a symbiosis of mutual interest that lets the trees grow 

without interruption, without a thousand tiny bites

eating away at the strong trunk. I'm so sorry, she said 

like she was talking about a blown-off limb, or a fast-

moving cancer. I laughed. (What is there to do 

but laugh.) Can't miss what you never had. Her eyes 

stayed bruised. Absence is not the worst fate. Singleness, 

someone once said, is an empty house, an empty life, an empty 

bed. I like my solitude, my own space, the starfishing 

across the wide bed without worry of running into icy toes or 

interrupting the quiet hitched-breaths of another being. 

Acacia trees sink their roots deep into the dry soil and store up 

reservoirs of water for the days of long sun where no respite 

comes. I smile into my coffee and don't correct my well-

intentioned friend when she says I mean, some of the happiest 

times of my life have been when I was single—but eventually 

you'll find someone, don't worry! I only say I don't. I lack 

the patience to constantly explain. The opposite of shame 

is pride, but this isn't about either. It's about silence, 

how an avoidance of speech is sometimes the best 

defense. The acacia trees spread across the savannah 

in groves are tied together not by a subterranea of roots 

but by a system of shared secrets. When giraffes first begin 

to tear at the high leaves, the tree spits back alkaloids, and 

in a waving banner signaling the first assault, a single

chemical flare goes up and suddenly all the surrounding 

acacia start to produce their own poison in an invisible network 

of support, standing in solidarity; alert, aware, saying I see you.


by Gretchen Rockwell


I hate having a body. It's a cage 

and I wish I could shed it like a snake.

I want to peel my face off, watch it break

to splinters as if some bacteriophage

had split its seams. I am consumed by rage;

it has to be some grand cosmic mistake

I wasn't born on some planet where lakes

of gleaming crystal mean that each bright sage

burns bodiless and windlike in the light.

Or if not that, then make me some reptile

repulsive to the eye—brain in a vat—

make me some creature seething with a spite

so sharp my blood itself is thick with bile—

make me some burnt-out star. Let me be that.

Self-Portrait as Space Odyssey

by Gretchen Rockwell

Self-Portrait as Space Odyssey​

after the revelation [] I say []

body [] now define yourself []

chorus of stars [] & satellites

[] daisies & thorns [] the body

emptied [] of meaning [] & full

for confrontation [] body, I say [] 

grant yourself an ability to be

hull, husk, haven [] I'm afraid [] 

it says to me[] I can't do that []

Jupiter can [] never be [] a star

[] king [] though it is [] no body

learns itself [] first [] I am not [] a 

[] monolith——of course [] I am

not an object [] nor an AI [] I am

only [] a person [] & I am lonely 

[] pretending to be [] a skeleton []

[] quarks [] of nature prevent [] me

                                                                returning            to the place I've                          left

                                                     space                               warping          around my                  form

                                                                               till I                                  pass beyond                          some horizon

                                        unseen     I will                          return   please                       don't

                                                         vivisect        whatever                                        remains                   of me 

                                                                      (why not call yourself                  

                                                                                                                        extraterrestrial? after all         

                                                                                   you've reached your              



Rockwell bio photo.jpg

Gretchen Rockwell

Gretchen Rockwell is a queer poet and supplemental instructor of English at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, RI. Xer work has appeared in Glass: Poets Resist, Into the Void, Noble/Gas Qtrly, and the minnesota review, as well as in other publications. Xe enjoys writing poetry about gender and sexuality, history, space, and unusual connections. Find xer on Twitter at @daft_rockwell or at xer website,

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