ALL ACCOUNTS AND MIXTURE: Poetry by Caitlin Mackenzie

We are leaning creatures

drinking bright pilsner in a dark kitchen. The party oscillates in endlessness as we ease ourselves into the idea of each other. Beer the color of cymbals— crash and linger. A pulley, windows open in November.

There is no after to wanting. It is endless,

the rooms we find ourselves in. We stare at our naked feet, then at each other awake in lamp light. Limes dry into exoskeletons on countertops. A tongue burns.

We flinch from self-awareness, covet what flies, nests, though we’re without a branch, without a song long-evolved that screams I am eternal! and I am worth fucking!

It’s no wonder we’re drunk, that we blush and brace, that our pattern of staring begins inverted then corrects itself. We escape ambiguity, bother with a question and then another.

We hang pressed shirts in the darkness of uninhabited spaces. We shave and toss what’s spoiled. We worry and invent alphabets.



We went slow to cut stone, cattails whipping our thighs as we gave our bodies to the sleeve of lake and night. Swollen memories are a dream’s jurisdiction— us in the smaller body, cove of fresh water, clothes abandoned by campfire. We gathered duckweed in upturned palms to avoid touching, staring too long. Cottonwood bloomed and deserted in a dense scatter. Cranes circled, crushed against summer’s county. I wished it for myself— the firmament, escape into long harvest, body and plain nourished by laboring hands.



You will not turn your head toward the closing door.

You will travel far and wide for pleasure and business.

Adapt to each abandon, as the sun sets two minutes early one evening and three minutes the next.

Learn to keep a tight fist of air in the lungs.

Renovate your needs. Refinish the floors.

Crab fish on your birthday. Throw the clicking keys back to salt. The sun will set in the rear window on the drive home.

You will always feel the spin. It will be enough to throw you into outer atmospheres—quick burn like a meteor.

You will always love too fast.

Many receive advice, only the wise profit by it.

Remember the sound of your heart in your ears: percussion of blood and cartilage.

Heat climbs in the transfer.

Each return will be less than the one before it.


I Didn’t Know to be Jealous

We drove to the coast, through towns desolate,

to trade overcast sky

for humidity.

The ocean is good for this,

for waiting, which isn’t always like holding

your breath. Don’t try, as I did,

to hypothesize the number of seconds

or molecules

between parallel bodies, legs stretched

toward shoreline.

Lungs are like skin, she said,

intimate with oxygen, and as tender.

Starlings flew in unison over inerrancy and line—

charge of intuition. Tide.

I didn’t know

to be jealous.

When she collected agates upshore

I thought of following,

but didn’t, fingers in sand,

counting. I touched my hair again

like an instinct to be clean,

or cautious.

When she returned, stones dropping wet

from her linen scarf, I studied each

while water drained, changed the color

into something subtle, concealed.



Caitlin Mackenzie is a writer living in Eugene, Oregon and working in book publishing. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Pinch, Fugue, Colorado Review, The Rumpus, HTMLgiant, and Structo among others, and one of her poems was recently nominated for the Forward Prize. She has a MFA from Bennington College, a passion for vinyl, and a single-speed bicycle she rides every day.