Loneliness is a language written in bright slobber 

on the back of pine bark. Boys

share sloppy kisses

in pine straw sprawled

under the canopy of southern sky.


Even this, buried

in silence. They talk in low voices of a city

with buildings taller than church steeples,

myth crammed into mason jar: a muster of feral peacocks,

apparition of high-heeled glitter critters,

dazzle of neon fever.

They dream of what they might become

without so much open sky.


Avian bodies rejoice in mammal filth,

grunt-gasps disguised as birdsong.

But there is no diagnosis here,

only death rattle, only

erasure passed down like a broken seed.

This town is already bruised with rough kissing—no,

I’m sorry, not everyone makes it out



Derek Berry is the author of the novel Heathens & Liars of Lickskillet County (2016) & poetry chapbook Skinny Dipping with Strangers (2013). Their recent work can be found or will appear in BOAAT Journal,Gigantic Sequins, Pidgeonholes, KAKALAK, Rabid Oak, & elsewhere. They live in Aiken, South Carolina & work at a Cold War Curation Facility.