the days aren’t quiet
open and shut the car doors
and another unknown
shifts into to the familiar
into we’ve been there
the beachfront alive
with moving shells
until you’re very still
and then they are crabs again
the sea here is a bob
with bodies face down
plastic blowholes and shoulder
blades pierce the surface
like twin dorsal fins
the air-filled zeppelins
dot the reef-dwellers abstract sky
until the ocean turns serious
and the gentle cowlick waves
straighten to walls
and push humans to land

-Liselle Yorke



off the page

this is what i am hiding
i’m wailing, always
the image isn’t banshee or small child
it’s the cinched glabella and big brown
watery eyes of black women
so an island
i’ve never held reality with both hands or firm grip
i am 309 loose chickens in a pasture
309 heads bobbing with different intentions
618 feet headed in different directions, i am also
the herding animal responsible for order
i am the faulty latch on the chicken enclosure gate
i am the human who stewards the land
and hatched hundreds of eggs on a Tuesday
starving and deeply grateful
for the company

this is what i am hiding
i am a mess but consistent-
ly trying to look like magic
because my skin is dark AND i am
“niceness” gets heavy hollow cosplay here
where white Canadians pretend their roots
aren’t fully intact
along the bed of Atlantic Ocean
like there isn’t still the sticky residue
of a price tag on people
i went insane
not the first or fiftieth time
called the n-word by the worlds
nicest people but in the time i was told
my kind weren’t allowed
inside the house
everyone else went in
i waited out front
by the doggy door

this is what i am hiding
i want to write poems like other women
who’s poetry like pussy
literally pops off the page
and into your hearts
take me in too
i want you to want me to come inside
it’s an honest description but
my spirit guides are pointedly quiet
after i compare our magic to others
different cauldron
different root
different soup
find me at your local bookshop
spread me open limb-by-limb
and tear out the stanza in which
our lives are kin
don’t tidy up the rough edges
of how we met, before you tape us
to the spot on the wall that gets
the best day- and moonlight

-Liselle Yorke



a complete opposition

what if i was on fire
running out of ways to say
i am a light white wispy cloud like
i am no chance of rain, when in truth
i am laden with torrent
should i descend upon you
will you know when you became wet
or will you think we are a damp people
the voice scrolling along the bottom of the page says
holler louder, louder
but i have only ever screamed inside my head
i wonder what my black sounds like
when it is not tepid
just right, just right, just right
i go down without lubrication
i’ve been consumed by night
which night
overrun by city light night
or night night
void of human ambition
i am a raincloud at night dark and grey and laden
wet, willing, and vicious
i am pregnant at night
posturing as always
what would it look like if i were free
i caged myself after they threw away the padlocks i 
caged myself when i was already free 
because i did not need the light  
i see just fine 
in the silhouette of shadows
i was made into a haunting in your world
sold as a rock but all my glory
was meant to be impossible
i was a ghost to justify your failings
when we could have filled in where others concave
we convex

-Liselle Yorke




i've seen it before with potted plants
whose roots expand to bloom in places too small
while others wait to be given soil beyond measure
this is how i view attachment to any one stage of life
roots straining against terracotta
yet if we would only admit we've reached the end
i am certain we would find no void
only the fear of the unknown
the burden of first choosing a new path
familiarity in a once new life

-Liselle Yorke




what a wild thing
to take death personally
on the day it comes for you
it will take a beetle
a great whale
a dandelion

with failure, fire and rebirth
life is a combustion engine
but there must be power
that isn’t pompous like
living peacefully on a planet
as it hurtles through space

this is what i know of death
i know that i am hurtling
yet still

-Liselle Yorke



dying to live

we’ve come to the countryside after the lilacs have gone
there’s now a sense of aimlessness to the trip
the trees are no less green
but the air is an after taste
like a cup of water that previously held orange juice
the remnants of something full and pungent now gone

it is the end of spring and summer set
the lukewarm temperament into a decisive heat
the kind of heat that relaxes, yet sets things in motion
the once prominent evergreens now outshined
by fresh bicolored leaves

these moments are living things that we must come to
we have tried being here, letting spring come to us
but we couldn’t pay in leaves and acorns
in good intentions or land stewardship
so we’ve come to nature to see autonomy
free agency coupled with clear cutting

we couldn’t see reality as we swam in it
so we’ve come to see the things
that create air be dehumanized
we wait until death to become living things
we are beige, only in our final seconds
are we orange, then red, then mute

-Liselle Yorke



with without

there isn’t hope, there is what’s done daily
there is space in hopelessness for everything i love
in the absence of expectation etches, lanterns
and front hall benches broke free from soil
and the calluses grew in the soft folds of my fingers
the barn door hung open leaking
bright light and the dull hum of a woman
existing in the present
there wasn’t and there will not be, there is
the heron tracing the edge of open water
until it stills to ice it will be here framed
in a living room window is a breathing scenery
hitching and stretching across a landscape that is
unburdening itself
it is the semi sweet scent of decaying leaves
that insist on you being undivided
on the depth required to view a singularity
everything is in no quantity of time at all 

-Liselle Yorke




on the days of holding things too tight
the snow melted to reveal fur and bone
the wild population curbed by winter
so those who rise in spring
wake to abundance

tucked in pockets
are tiny lined pieces of paper
on which every version of myself is noted
in pencil
in black ink

unable to decide
what piece of paper-self to let go
or retrieve my hands from my pockets
without bits of me spilling onto the floor
one piece
folded and unfolded so often
it is more cloth than paper
is the fear of making mistakes

in a living burial
neither hot nor cold
indecision left me
at room temperature
clutching written proof
i can embody abundance

there is nothing left but to tear through paper
like winter nights cutting summer’s light
there is no cocoon
no mesmerizing twin wings
i am the hammer
the anvil
and everything in-between

-Liselle Yorke




i water my breast bone
in hope that DNA is a seed
that once given the right environment
will bloom into truths
that do not wane
with the oscillation of belief

that no matter the passage of time
here is a set place
my feet will find again
like the spot from which you push
to ensure the momentum of a swing

spring will not shoulder another transition
it will be literal
i will be here one moment
and thrust into the next
having circled despair enough to know the signs of a spiral
i can choose to climb the staircase

willing the future into existence
is godly
but the blood the we in me shed
was not a sacrifice it was an ascension
and now the i am in me is godly
and i its vessel and its well acquainted
forever looking inward and upward

there is no one form i must be
fallen petals are still
the roots the stem the bud the bloom
the undoing and the decade that thus
nourishes the roots of the plant that parades the flower
whose petals are descending
forever rising to fall and falling to rise

i am
balanced when i cross paths with myself
déjà vu for moments before
i rise and i fall
or vice versa

-Liselle Yorke




i felt myself drying out in this country
felt the soil care less for my bones
than for those that carved themselves up
for the American dream

“be a bit more selfish” my mother says
as she pulls, skipping me ahead of others
from a small island to big dreams in fruition
how far she has come
how could i not think that it is me
and not this place that is the problem

imagine me the fixed point
and spin the globe
the new country, not superior
the change is simply be the correct
application of affect and effect
a thing in its right place

in this land of mass enslavement
say there’s no catch and we’ll both
be staring at the lie in that statement
i splinter pulling my roots out of
North America’s gelatin rich soil
in search of composites that bare
‘blue zones’, frank words and kind actions
where seemingly overwhelming problems
buckle against teflon woven communities

somewhere where homes’ borders are atmospheric

-Liselle Yorke




it used to be the world, singular
sitting on your shoulders
now it's each of you
we've become so individualized

the frayed end of a tassel
i don't know who or what
is the single thread holding us
together at the top
but it's precarious, no

i want to weave around you
not the finesse of a braid
more the semi secure jumble
of a haphazard knot

when you think a thing
can be simply unravelled
but you end up sitting down
fingers digging in
it's togetherness
at very least 

-Liselle Yorke



west is best

turns out air is not readily available
the top of my lungs still pink and wet
but the bottom has picked up
all the dirt and dust that settles
in the crevice where the curb
bends to meet the road
out in the sun like this
the fleshy top will soon suffer

the fault is not with my organs
each in its right place, functioning well
it’s the casing
all that could be
wrapped in melanin and femininity
that would not be commodified
so out to the gutter went my pancreas as well

my liver smells of burnt rubber
i find the imprint of tire threads quite artistic
it isn’t repetitive
each car smatters in its own special way
it's this exact uniqueness that's lead me here
despite strict covert instruction to silently
smile and work until you die
i went in searched of an “authentic self”

authenticity and i lived, hand in hand
we climbed down the social ladder
(admittedly the base is less a ladder
and more knots tied in a weakening bed sheet)
to a place where people pay to watch you suffer
their egos beating off and creaming in rapid succession
it was this festival of indifference towards human suffering
that prompted my internal spring cleaning, out with the old
in with the new!

my brain will be the last to go
and once empty
my casing will hang
with all the other deviators
in a room
behind an unlocked door
human vacancies

-Liselle Yorke



 quiet work

is there space for stillness in me
room for moments of acceptance
where introspection is admired
but benched
it brings into question value
to let myself be nothing
in introductory conversations
to know that in these label-less moments
i am without ornament
purely human
beautiful, violent, vulnerable
subject to time 

-Liselle Yorke




i’ve made myself bite sized for you
though i’ve seen your unhinged jaw
swallow social dissonance
without needing to chew
make finer pieces
or understand minute details

i hope this comes up beside
“never dim your light”

-Liselle Yorke



in need of

i put an entire nation into a cardboard box
handled them with care down the basement stairs
opened the last door for them
the last act of common decency
i put them on the cold floor of the crawl space
tucked between winter gear and holiday lights
alongside seasons that have passed
i leave the cardboard box ajar
the way one would leave a car window
a crack for whatever humanity is left
to draw breath from if it so chooses
i touch my face and realize i am in mourning
their ideals have lived in me for so long
i can feel them dissolving the pigment of my eyes
i shed them
there is nothing to go back to
i walked out the front door
not in hope of finding a brave new world
i am in search of something very old
something lost but i am desperate now
for community within our human race

-Liselle Yorke