Three Poems

By: Rhiannon Conley



Saratoga (the Capricorn Moon)

I’ve never been,
but I know about the horses:
preened and whipped and sweating
for somebody’s enjoyment.
Not mine. I make my own fun,
am my own bridle and bit,
each bad decision a riding crop
slapped across my ass:
Jump! Go faster! Keep jumping!

I’ve never stopped running—
try not to think
about how they shoot wounded horses.
I think they shoot retired horses
too. No good. The horse
is no good. Dependent on
the steam and fear of each race,
the adrenaline a fulfilling

How else can I fuck this up?

The rider is never wearing a helmet.
Why would he? I tell him
I love him. It’s not a lie.
I just can’t seem to stop racing.
I pray each night
that my legs break.




Cornflower blue embroidery—
a river in my skin, satin
thread along the places blood
vessels show through.
This isn’t anything new,
I wouldn’t call it a body mod,
rather, a going-over, retracing
what’s already there.
A kind of cartography
and just as redundant.
I am nothing if not bad habits
again and again.
I’m sorry.
Sorry you have to see me
naked, the shoddy stitches
I’ve sewn, the novice
threadwork coming undone
already. Is there anything
left that you love?
A scent you catch
of lavender and sweat?
My face—maybe?
Probably not. My pussy,
my voice, my kindness?
The way I care for our child?
I didn’t always want
to be a river. I grew up
by the ocean, wanted
to be a sea. I’ve adapted.
Found ways to wind and bend.
Quenched the roots
of cottonwoods.
I thought that was
what you loved about me—
I don’t know. So I’m sewing,
trying to imprint
into my heart a map
to better understand
these waters. Trying to survey
the bottom. Trying to find
riverbed. So much stinking
silt to dredge, stinking
like lavender, sweat.
I’m sorry. So sorry
you’re downstream.



Read the Sky

Tonight the sky is pink-orange marble, those graphite
tangles of true night streaked through the glowing steam
of the beet plant—steam
reflecting halogen confusion from streetlamps and parking lots
and the turmoil I hold in my chest.
I suppose I am supposed to suffer,
but where is the magic in that? I cannot embrace the dry,
archaic coughing of atonement,
bereavement, self-flagellation.
And even if I coat myself in blood and soot,
nothing changes.
My cards say cut my losses. Nothing changes, no matter,
so I build. I cast a salt spell and stack stones into a fortress,
gems tumbled into a fabric
I will call peace and cover myself,
my face with.
Dig a trench with my hands to fill a moat,
dribble lavender and lemon in the mucky water for blessings
and tranquility, for the steam to part and peace
so that I can see the stars.
Pave a little walkway in seashells—
white calcium thumbnails, mollusk husks that will serve me
Am I supposed to suffer? Or is there room
in this castle for learning? Can I build from these mistakes?
Pour fear into water, pour water in the ground, read
a blood-colored sky like a text that says, “Move on,”
and form some turbid little landscape
I might live on.



Rhiannon Conley is a poet and writing instructor living in North Dakota. Her work has appeared in Occulum, Literary Mama, Longleaf Review, the Penn Review, Rust + Moth, Exposition Review and more. Her first chapbook, Less Precious, was published by Semiperfect Press in 2017. She writes an irregular newsletter of short poetic essays called Smol Talks and more regularly Tweets @RhiannonAdmidas.