No-Beak Chickens (and other forgotten delicacies), poetry by Kelli Allen

We are no longer safe in the museum. The boyfriend

stands humiliated, hands across his stomach, trying

to puzzle desire against despair. It is a perfect morning


to carry sandbags back from the river. The soggy yard

has become a cemetery for statues needing protection

from so much rain. Dear Foolishness, Have you broken-


up with your waterwheel just because the koi clogged

the pond? You cannot breed a salamander with a pigeon,

no matter how much you want to hold a feathered tail


between your fingers. Remember the sarcophagus packed

with severed beaks? Can we still daydream about flesh

roasting, heads with no tongues, legs trussed and primly


crossed just like the first time we agreed to take trains

everywhere oceans crept too close? It’s enough to forget

freckles embroidered over the hermit’s dirty shroud.


Someday, these public stairs will stop disintegrating

and we won’t bother carrying the candles at night. Potters

take rooms to hide their clay feet from curators late


for dinner and here we are, thin as bamboo, shuttered

as refugees learning the day’s skit in exchange for milk,

in exchange for a chance to mouth anything at all.



Kelli Allen’s work has appeared in numerous journals/anthologies in the US and internationally. She is currently a visiting professor of English Literature at Rutgers University/RUNIN, Northeast Normal University in Changchun, China. She is the recipient of the 2018 Magpie Award for Poetry. Her chapbook, Some Animals, won the 2016 Etchings Press Prize. Her chapbook, How We Disappear, won the 2016 Damfino Press award. Her full-length poetry collection, Otherwise, Soft White Ash, arrived from John Gosslee Books (2012) and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her collection, Imagine Not Drowning, was released by C&R Press in January 2017. Allen’s new collection, Banjo’s Inside Coyote,  arrived from C&R Press March, 2019.


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