The Letter I


Letters, like bone, have pretty

marrow. Intimate, gritty


as a pearl, I glitters

in wet-dark solitude,


our mouths. I shines

its bright iris,


flits in the river,

glistening its fins.


I aches to hold

other letters,


cries, sometimes,

like we do


in the tender violence

of our singularity.

first published in Crab Orchard Review



You, who just to feel your falling, fell,

unlocked your eyes to splendid shame.       

You who crave delicious hell


fell to feel the spark in every cell,   

shock of knowing shimmers your brain.

You, who just to feel your falling fell


into silence. Aching tongue of bell   

hungry to be wrung, to sound your name.                              

You who crave delicious hell


yearn for serpents, toxic tonics they sell,

their promise to feed, to satiate pain.

You, who just to feel your falling fell                    


into love, its incinerating spell,                                  

its sad hiss of ashes after the flame. 

You—you crave delicious hell;


the thrill of bitter bliss propels

you to part your lips, taste, relish blame.

You who crave delicious hell.

You, who just to feel your falling, fell.

May 2015 Bite-Sized Poem for Utah Division

of Arts and Museums


Both Sides of the Window


The story is a window, and light slides

its eyes through the glass. Little prickles

of time, the squeak of a finger, smudging

its oily print. Outside, the sky darkens         

like a bruise. The blue fragrance of spring

snow. Red Riding Hood is on both sides

of the window. Outside, the sky hums

a golden light.  The night will be unbearably

cold. If the story goes on forever, it will always

end. Wolf, ulfe, lupine, lupus: the slippery        

animal of time. Wolf stretches long                    

and harmless in a patch of sun, then winds

himself in a cocoon of glass. He waits

for the right moment to shatter out and fly.

Wolf will always be waiting, the girl always

watching, maybe inside, maybe outside, in the sky.

Smudge of the seasons on windows,

smudge of fingerprints, halo of breath on glass.      

Glass holds nothing but itself.

The window watches me; the seasons sprout

buds and wings as Wolf swirls over the hills.

first published in cream city review

Red Riding Hood to Grandmother


Go ahead, grandmother, slide

your tongue along the salt

of my cheeks, lick

my eyes closed and then take

a little nibble—my earlobe,

my smallest finger.  I’ve brought


a basket of bread we could

eat in two snaps, but let’s

forget about that—your tongue

on my throat feels like

a silk scarf.  I need to

tell you: I rip

scabs from my skin

and lay them on my tongue.

Don’t tell anyone,


but I bathed my cat with my

tongue, slowly and so slowly

I licked her eyelids and the soft,

soft patch of fur right behind

her ear.  When she closed

the spring blue of her eyes,

I could run my tongue

across them and taste

the shape of her mind.

first published in Indiana Review


Follow the links below to read more poetry.

Review of William Trowbridge's 2014 book of poems:

Put This On, Please: New & Selected Poems

View Shanan Ballam's

Curriculum Vitae