Stilettos Can Wait by the Door

Kelli Allen

This will be a love letter after slipping

into, zipping fast, the tent. Calibrate how

gravity draws one feather over a bone.

Poles snap through rungs and you

do not notice my spine curl away.

The wrapped hatchet signifies want,

but not yours for me. Rather, where handle

meets steel reminds us both—we have been here

before. We agreed to keep your chairs behind doors

to which you have not once offered me a key. An albino

between teeth, dahlias do not mark grace.

I’ve shot over the wick and missed ignition the way

black and white photos line your daypack—dangerous

when the ballerina reaches in, slips fouetté rond de jambes

past us both. We can only teach each other a simple dance,

purpose the corset for what’s good. We might burn

those maps after all. Maybe walking backward is boarding

a vessel meant to be outrun. What I know is your belt

undoes the high grasses I pretend are perennial and ours.

There is no palladium erected when you sleep.

Kelli Allen’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the US and internationally. She is Poetry Editor for The Lindenwood Review and she directs River Styx’s Hungry Young Poets Series. 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 latest collection, Imagine Not Drowning, was released by C&R Press in January 2017. Learn more at