Poetry by Natalie Eilbert

"Untitled" by Ghost Oranges



Activation in the Midst of a Massacre

Yellow broth greases the rim of a bowl. I pick out
a vertebrae from my mouth, set it on the table.
The knuckle of former pain belongs only to me. I wear
my mother’s socks as the snow melts. Strange that I never
considered a chicken’s spine, the pylon of nerves
and chemicals, such a tremendous small. Over the phone
my therapist watches me cry, socks rolled to arches.
“You are so sad,” she nods, as though pulling my vertebrae
from her throat. I tire of the leader I’ve become, the one
with a trail of goslings, flattened, deformed, cooked blind
to stock. Delete all the apps, I’m told. Out the window,
melted snow drift flanks my life. I have screamed many times.
The trail shows the steps of a possum. She walked with
slow deliberation, a life I never achieved: a care alone, unto none.



Beautiful Door

I am thinking about the story of an entire town
                slumped over from a bad heroin batch, body

pressed against a brake at the traffic light, body
                felled in a motel pressed against carpet. I never

learn much more about these stories. I stand
                at their porch for the census. I leave. In my first memory

I wake up in my head, a toad in my hand. My father
                tells me this is impossible, I was too young, yet he

confirms the toad, my fixation on the cereal box, the velvet
                pour of Life into a bowl. Some parts of me require being right

like my father. The toad pissed in my hand. I threw it.
                To be correct avoids the lies of my history, which spreads

as a black spore spelling its ills on the wall. I grew.
                I told a group of girls once that portobello meant

beautiful door. I wanted to believe this into origin,
                incept etymology the way the past speeds ahead

without us. If you dig long enough, a doorway
                opens in the earth. Portobellos grimace away

from paradise and this is language, a speech
                offered in the bruise of surfacing. Today I tell my class

that heaven cannot exists because we’ve relied on the promise
                to ruin one another. I raise my voice. Something

grates in me. In the past, an arm hangs slack 
                over a steering wheel, the u in utopia, literally nowhere.


Natalie Eilbert is the author of Indictus, winner of Noemi Press’s 2016 Poetry Prize, as well as the poetry collection, Swan Feast (Bloof Books, 2015). Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from POETRY, Poem-a-Day, Granta, The New Yorker, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, jubilat, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of the 2016 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellowship at University of Wisconsin–Madison and is the founding editor of The Atlas Review.