Two poems from Devon Balwit

There, the Similarity Ends


At session’s end, she cradles

my head in a towel, rolls it

back and forth in all the gentle

spirals the spine is made for.


This time, as she readies me,

the smallest swathe covers

my nostrils, trapping my breath

in a quick gasp, and reminding me


of waterboarding, of victims

drowning and reviving,

the pinching off of air

to force confession.


I wonder if the brain

suffers beyond the immediate

alarm, whether neurons die,

and with them, memories, those


of gentler touch, say, of different

kinds of gasping, the spending of

passion, the passing of beauty.

Sheltered as I am, I know


the tortured changed, but how—

at the cellular level, or only

in attitude, wary of sheets

on the line or dishtowels


draped over the faucet? Freed,

I gather myself amidst spruce-

scented candles, choose

my memories, and leave.



The Lower Self


Not a nest, but hair, yanked, blood-spattered.

There are scratch marks, skin


beneath nails, and bruises waiting to lift

their message from within.


Rage wafts an acrid stink. Beside myself,

my nostrils flare to suck it in.


I know now the time to return, but I

prefer this dark twin.


In the morning, shame crushes me,

just as fallen roof beams pin


survivors. I hyperventilate, croak

for help in a voice reed-thin.


This aftermath should suffice for warning,

but it’s a place I’ve often been.
(after Cristina Troufa’s The Lower Self)


Devon Balwit teaches in Portland, OR. She has six chapbooks and two collections out or forthcoming. Her individual poems can be found here as well as in Cordite, Rattle, Posit, The Ekphrastic Review, Peacock Journal, and more.

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