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  • Writer's picturethe graveyard zine

a poem collection by devon bohm

Excerpt from Careful Cartography, Bohm's first poetry collection due out in November 2021 from Cornerstone Press



The problem is you keep trying to use your eyes,

even when the candle takes its inexorable last

gasp of oxygen and blinks out. There is a difference

between darkness and being invisible, but I wouldn’t

want to hurt your pride by tracing your outline

with my hands. When I was a little girl, I liked

getting dirty, I liked mud. My mother once found me

curled in around myself and coated, an embryo

in the earth’s dark womb, trying for camouflage.

But I knew down to the calcium in my bones

that someone would find me, come looking, reach

out. Remember how I looked at you—the light all

the flickering yellows of silks on fire—before?

I am looking at you the same way now, but

I have learned to use something else for the looking.

My mother didn’t bake bread, but she would make

me piece after piece of buttered toast. There are other

ways to find someone than to look for them. Hold

the fat ruby in your palms and warm it, its facets

cut as sharp as my mother’s knives. Do you hear

a cannon? No, no. That’s nothing more than my

heart in your hands, beating and trying to let you

see with whatever sense will leave you something

other than fooled by what’s presented, something

beaming through the dark.

Things My Mother Taught Me

If you’re uninterested in the world, it’s because you’re uninteresting.

Don’t let a man serenade you. A little salt goes a long way. Most

clothes are better off air drying. An accent rug is a great way to bring

a room together. No one is a stranger, we’re all just people—half-strangers

only. Plan your grocery list by the route you take through the supermarket.

When it rains it inevitably downpours, bring an umbrella. Funerals aren’t

for the dead. Don’t love a man who drinks gin. If you keep eating that much

salt, you’re going to develop high blood pressure. You wouldn’t get so

many headaches if you drank more water. 3 a.m. is both too late and too

early for your bullshit. You don’t need two parents, even if it would have

been nice. Any hurricane can be weathered if you kind find a safe harbor,

if you move far enough inland. Any fire can be survived if you make

your way toward the coast. You can build a palace wherever you land.

Don’t go near the edge of the cliffs—erosion. Don’t fuck with snakes,

just get out of there. Or wasps. Most people would be better off without

tombstones. If your spouse dies, you become a wonder of the world

if you can manage to keep going. Taste before you season. Yawning

when someone else does is a sign of natural empathy. It’s okay to ask

for what you want. Always have wine in the house. If you pretend to be

happy, the pretending will become real, eventually. Expiration dates are

meaningless. Life is relentless, so you’ll have to be relentless, too. Love

isn’t the kind of thing that dies when a person dies. Red is a little much

for a bedroom, maybe try the kitchen. It costs nothing to be kind, but

you wouldn’t know it from other people. Unconditional love is the only

option when you really care. Devon, that is definitely too much salt.

It’s illegal to have the car’s inside light on at night (it’s not.) You have

one job in this life: Be better. Be kinder. Be more than those that came

before you. Eat when you’re hungry and listen to your body to tell you

when its full. Unconditional love is worth whatever pain comes with it.

When you’re lost, go back to the ocean. Anything and anyone can be holy.

Even with that much salt.

The Week All the Fish Died in the Biology Lab

March flying in, sudden as a promise

and half as charitable, has me dreaming

again of the red dirt desert, flushed

with held heat and the secrets only

cinders can hold—secrets that burn down

cities only to reveal nothing at all

in the wreck. Invert the matchsticks,

so they’re all sulfur with wooden tips,

and let the pinks and gold of a good, dry

sunset dance along your fingertips.

It’s not that I miss being warm, it’s more

nonsensical than that: I miss fire days.

(That’s a secret, but I’m trusting you

with it, with this:) while in this part

of my country children dreamed of sledding

days, crumbs of cinnamon rolls scattered

among coffee cups, I was watching my world

burn. Our gardens filled with ice plant

and yarrow, yucca and juniper (acacia trees

with no giraffes to trim them)—we tried

only vaguely to save ourselves, save

anything precious and hold it in our laps

in the car as we drove away, drove

to the sea. You know the Renaissance

paintings with all the little cupids caught

up in the corners? Why do I need to witness

destruction to learn how it is I’m to love?

Waiting Room in Spring

Poetry is always coming back to nature,

to the sweet peas bowing their frowzy

heads, to the white plumage of the sea

birds flashing past your eyeline like

angels alighting, to those who will be

inheritors of the earth. We may be meek,

you and I, Mother, but we are the same

in other ways: even quiet pride can stop

the resurrection of the tulip bulbs. I have

forgiven you, but I can’t stop reminding

you of that forgiveness, I can’t stop

remembering what it is to see you trying

to fix your hair in a hospital bed. Your hair,

dyed dark, unchanged since my childhood,

raven feathers whispering fiercely around

the gold-hued opening of your face. Neither

of us can grow anything—this was the edifice

I built my life around, mouth puckered over

a sour, granular truth. I thought of the trees

in our backyard, the fruit once harvested never

to return, the hydrangeas every Mother’s Day

dead by June, how I died in the womb, and

I stoked bonfires—chemical scent of butane

instead of the cool, rich, loaming of the soil—

when I should have let that wood live onward

and upward for everyone to hold. Mother,

we were wrong. We are more than disaster,

destruction, death, though we’ve seen it follow

us. Those small animals in the underbrush

aren’t scurrying away, they want us to follow

them, nip at their heels for once. There are

gifts to be given, if we could let go of enough

of our burden to receive them. We needn’t

carry so much, we needn’t be so heavy.

The tulips need a light hand, and I know, I

know. So do I. And so do you deserve one:

softly, softly brushing back your hair in bed.

Participation Trophies Handed Out Each April

They don’t hand out participation trophies for staying alive, but maybe they should.

At least for those of us who can see the gloaming gathering under the gables

of the house, can see the rust growing on the frowsy petals in the garden,

can hear the tap, tap, tap of the woodpecker bringing down

spring in the impalpable night. Transmutation,

a dirty word (we don’t like change

made real in our insomnia,

our dreams while


(our heads

full and




of wild

hair and

wild lights)

and a




hinged on belief,

beguiling and impossible.

How does one believe in anything?

How does one not be the drowned man

in all the briny clutch of it? Waving, waving

in the ocher light, waving, waving as the robin clicks

its tiny talons along the new planks of wood on the porch

to announce new spring green, nothing like emerald. No,

nothing like emeralds, nothing precious like all of that.


About Devon Bohm:

Devon Bohm received her BA from Smith College and earned her MFA with a dual concentration in Poetry and Fiction from Fairfield University. After serving as Mason Road’s Editor-in-Chief, she worked as an adjunct professor of English. She was awarded the 2011 Hatfield Prize for Best Short Story, received an honorable mention in the 2020 L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, and was long-listed for Wigleaf’s Top Very Short Fictions 2021. Her work has also been featured in publications such as Labrys, Necessary Fiction, Spry and Sixfold. Her first book of poetry is forthcoming in Fall 2021 from Cornerstone Press. Follow her on Instagram @devonpoem or visit her website at

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