Safiya Sinclair

Good Hair

Poetry from NER 37.2

Only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.

—W. B. Yeats, “For Anne Gregory”

Sister, there was nothing left for us.
Down here, this cast-off hour, we listened
but heard no voices in the shells. No beauty.

Our lives already tangled in the violence of our hair,
we learned to feel unwanted in the sea’s blue gaze,
knowing even the blond lichen was considered lovely.

Not us, who combed and tamed ourselves at dawn,
cursing every brute animal in its windy mane—
God forbid all that good hair being grown to waste.

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Safiya Sinclair was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Her first full-length collection, Cannibal, won the 2015 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry (University of Nebraska Press, 2016). She is the recipient of a 2016 Whiting Writers’ Award, the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, and a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Kenyon Review, the Nation, Boston Review, Gulf Coast, Gettysburg Review, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. Sinclair received her MFA in Poetry from the University of Virginia and is currently a PhD candidate in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California.

Maria S. Picone is a writer, painter, and photographer who lives in Boulder, Colorado. She studies fiction writing at Goddard College. She loves to volunteer and travel, most recently having done both in a rural village in Cambodia. Her website is, or you can follow her on Twitter@mspicone.

Bruce Snider

They Will Not Eat the Bird of Paradise

Poetry from NER 37.2


but they will devour the rose, the foxglove,
the lily of the valley, their flat teeth
scouring the crocus to a nub
over cold names and dates. They will not eat
the bird of paradise, but they will
crouch on the cheat grass and mark the iris
with their urine, and lie on headstones,
chewing their cud. After the grave
diggers have wiped down their shovels,
the furred shapes will rise at dusk from
behind the Walmart, hooves
sinking into mud along Garner’s creek.

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Bruce Snider is the author of two collections of poetry, Paradise, Indiana (LSU Press, 2012) and The Year We Studied Women (University of Wisconsin Press, 2003). With the poet Shara Lessley, he is currently co-editing an anthology of essays, The Poem’s Country: Place and Poetic Practice. He teaches at the University of San Francisco.

Maria S. Picone is a writer, painter, and photographer who lives in Boulder, Colorado. She studies fiction writing at Goddard College. She loves to volunteer and travel, most recently having done both in a rural village in Cambodia. Her website is, or you can follow her on Twitter @mspicone.

NER Classics

W. S. Di Piero | Tuxedo, New York

The poem “Tuxedo, New York,” by W. S. Di Piero, appeared in NER 20.4:


She looks out and paints the scene
while voices from branches across the lake
flee through the cedars to stop
at the water restless on her easel.
Yellowjackets change the air
around her head. Her paper hat
flies in the wind. Waterbugs draw
circles around lily pads and nothing
is apart from any other thing.

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Bob Hicok


My habit in December is to peel an orange
as I walk—bits of peel in my pockets—
pants that smell of Florida—and sometimes
approach a car at an intersection—
tap on the window—interrupt
the driver’s rapture of watching
for the green light of release—I’m sworn at
by most—flipped-off—or ignored
with the same passion I’m ignored by God—
but she rolled down her window
when I made the motion of a crank

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Bob Hicok’s poems have appeared in the New Yorker, Poetry, and American Poetry Review. His books include the forthcoming Sex & Love & (Copper Canyon Press, 2016), This Clumsy Living (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007), which was awarded the Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress, and The Legend of Light (University of Wisconsin Press, 1995), which was named a “Notable Book of the Year” by Booklist. Hicok has worked as an automotive die designer and a computer system administrator, and is currently an Associate Professor of English at Virginia Tech.

Lisa Lewis

Dry Hollows

Poetry from NER 36.4

We lived at the foot of a mountain.
As children we learned to count the toes.
Rough chucks of rock sticking
where they touched so we couldn’t forget
how many. Always someone calling out:
does it add up? Strong, sweet flavors
pushed out of palmate blossoms, a golden line
up the hillsides where later we followed
a sharp yelping we thought must be foxes
but we never glimpsed the coats,
devil of devils, ghost of ghosts. Our hands closing
on edges and legs lifting bodies, step by step,
over quartz and sandstone,
or coal, veins like sorrow emptying,
men’s bodies on stretchers, their faces true
smut, search and misfortune.

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Lisa Lewis’s books include The Unbeliever (Brittingham Prize, 1994), Silent Treatment (National Poetry Series, 1998), Vivisect (New Issues Press, 2010), and Burned House with Swimming Pool (American Poetry Journal Prize, Dream Horse Press, 2011). A fifth volume, The Body Double, is forthcoming from Georgetown Review Press. Recent work appears in Carolina Quarterly, Guernica, Sugar House Review, American Literary Review, and elsewhere. She directs the creative writing program at Oklahoma State University and serves as poetry editor for the Cimarron Review.

Edgar Kunz

In the Supply Closet at Illing Middle

Poetry from NER 36.4


Mike pins me to the sink, forearm
                levered against my throat, flexing
                                the needle-nose pliers in one hand.

He and Ant examine the hole in my head
                where the pencil lead snapped off, blood
                                leaking down my temple

and pooling in my ear. I squirm
                and Mike presses harder. Hold still.
                               I know how to do this.

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Edgar Kunz is a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. His poems appear in AGNI, Narrative, Gulf Coast, Missouri Review, Indiana Review, Best New Poets 2015, and others. His work has been supported by the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Academy of American Poets, and Vanderbilt University where he earned his MFA. He lives in Oakland, California.

Lucia Perillo

Time Will Clean the Carcass Bones

Poetry from NER 36.3

It starts with a dead animal: whenever she finds one
when walking the dogs up in the hills,
Jane puts the carcass in a cage on the roof
in order to bring up the bone-curls and -fractals.
Otherwise she’d have to dig
slantwise through the manglement, it’s best
to leave that to the professionals, the sun
and the maggots, the distant star and the grub inside, it’s best
to put on some music. Best not to listen
for any decibels of little mandibles.

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Lucia Perillo’s new book, Time Will Clean the Carcass Bones, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press.

Alex Dimitrov


Poetry from NER 36.3

Lucky or not, we were riding in cars through the seasons.
I read you Baudelaire. I have more memories than a thousand years.
And the skin began to look like a puzzle
despite lighting or pleasures.
Columbus Circle at midnight.
Turn around and remind me how late in these photos
you look like an Andrew or prince.
There is fog by the bed and house weather I live in.
Then by dawn I’m a fold in the fabric’s small show.
Believe me, he said, every hand finds the right door without keys.


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Alex Dimitrov is the author of Begging for It (Four Way Books, 2013). A second collection of poems is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press. He lives in New York.

New Poetry from Joshua Bennett | NER 36.2

The Sobbing School |
Joshua Bennett

[View as PDF

is where I learned to brandish the black like a club,
you know, like a blunt object, or cobalt flashes of strobe
dotting damp walls after dusk drops the dark motion
our modern world can’t hold. There’s a process
by which bodies blend in, or don’t, or die, or roll on
past the siren’s glow so as not to subpoena the grave.
Mama never said surviving this flesh was a kind
of perverse science, but I’ve seen the tape,
felt the metal close & lock around my wrists, bone
bisected by chokehold. A crow turns crimson
against the windshield & who would dare mourn
such clean transition, the hazard of not knowing you
are the wrong kind of alive. But enough
about extinction. Entire towns mad with grief, whole
modes of dreaming gone the way of life before lyric,
all faded into amber & archive, all dead as the VCR,
all buried below the surface where nothing breaks, bleeds.

[View as PDF

Joshua Bennett is a doctoral candidate in the English Department at Princeton University and has received fellowships from the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, the Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University, and the Ford Foundation. He is winner of the 2014 Lucille Clifton and the 2015 Erskine J. Poetry Prizes. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in Anti-, Blackbird, Callaloo, Obsidian, Smartish Pace, and elsewhere. Bennett is the founding editor of Kinfolks: a journal of black expression.

Image by Stephanie Maniaci Vernon, from Poiesis

New Poetry from Ocean Vuong | NER 36.1

To My Father / To My Unborn Son | Ocean Vuong

“The stars are not hereditary.”—Emily Dickinson

There was a door & then a door
surrounded by a forest.
Look, my eyes are not
your eyes.
You move through me like rain heard
from another country.
Yes, you have a country.
Someday, they will find it
while searching for lost ships . . .
Once, I fell in love
during a slow-motion car crash.
We looked so peaceful, the cigarette floating from his lips
as our heads whip-lashed back
into the dream & all
was forgiven.

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Ocean Vuong is the author of Night Sky with Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon Press, 2016). A 2014 Ruth Lilly fellow, he has received honors from Kundiman, Poets House, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the Elizabeth George Foundation, and the Academy of American Poets, as well as a 2014 Pushcart Prize. His poems appear in the New Yorker, Poetry, the Nation, Boston Review, Best New Poets 2014, and American Poetry Review, which awarded him the 2012 Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets. He lives in Queens, New York.