| words that get in your teeth

In the world that still holds you living – Syble Heffernan

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In the world that still holds you living


I’ve shown you the Tropical Sno

on 56th and Old Cheney.

We go almost every night after dinner.

We get the YOLO every time;

they pick the flavors,

we get the next one free.

Our version of shopping is wandering

between hundreds of shades of green at the paint store;

and for once we have time

to find just the right one.

When we’re together, time unfolds like a scroll

with no end, and we are calligraphers


intentional; not having to rush.

On Saturday mornings I wash my hair

with your rosemary shampoo,

and I’m not pulling any of it out.

You’re in the kitchen, making us eggs,

making the counter dirtier than it’s ever been.

You tell me there’s nothing to be feared

in grimy things. We leave the dishes

in the sink til’ later, which gives us more

time at our easels. Chips of paint get

caught in my nailbeds, giving me

hands like yours.

In a world that still holds you living

you are beside me in the hospital

the day I almost left this world at my own

hand, the one that you are holding,

telling me you know how it feels to live

with a bee-hive brain and heartache


running thick as honey in our veins.

You tell me we’ll find our way through

together. We’ll find the right meds,

we’ll leave the liquor alone. In this world

that never tires of swallowing our dreams,

we’ll learn how to seize joy like driftwood


We’ll learn how to surf.


Your thumb rubs the vein

where the IV went in

right next to the green paint-stains.

You tell me

One more time, kid.

Let’s just try one more time.


Bio – Syble Heffernan (she/they) is a poet and spoken word artist studying English and International Studies at Nebraska Wesleyan University. She is the founder of, and active participant in, the university Spoken Word Group and works with the Nebraska Writers Collective as a Slam Poetry Teaching Artist. Her written work has appeared in Masque and Spectacle literary magazine, Prometheus Dreaming literary magazine, the Poems from the Lockdown Anthology, and Blanket Sea Press online magazine, among others. She is a lover of mountain meadows, energy work, unscheduled days, ocean swimming, stove-popped popcorn, airport terminals, piano music, and the fleeting nature of lilacs in the spring.

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