Kelsey Bryan-Zwick
May 2020
Portrait by Donna Hilbert.jpg

A Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee, Kelsey Bryan-Zwick is a Spanish/English speaking poet from Long Beach, California.  Disabled with scoliosis from a young age, her poems often focus on trauma, giving heart to the antiseptic language of hospital intake forms.  Author of Watermarked (Sadie Girl Press) and founder of the micro-press BindYourOwnBooks, Kelsey’s poems appear in petrichor, Cholla Needles, Rise Up Review, Right Hand Pointing, Redshift, and Making Up, a Picture Show Press anthology.  Writing towards her new title, Here Go the Knives, find her at


One-thousand origami cranes threaded together.


Maybe I should have read up on the tradition better

but when Sadako’s story was first shared with me when I got diagnosed

what I understood was that if I folded my thousand paper cranes, a wish 

would be granted. And so, I made them as a young girl might, from waxy

bubble gum papers, and tinfoil peeled carefully back from chocolate bites

from napkins at restaurants, from corners of homework sheets

Starburst wrappers were a particular favorite, though I didn’t like

the chewy sweets inside and would feed them to a best friend

and like so many gathered leaves I left and gave and nudged my birds

into the winds, let the waitress have a bit of luck, my friends

teachers, parents, strangers, the children waiting in line with me

at the greyhound station brought me their dollars to fold

each of us sharing now in our fate.

The Way Willful Neglect Burns Through Like California Wildfire


A meager medicine poured over a burning flame.  The cup was full to start, but between every set of hands, water sheds so, all I have left is drops.  Licking the bottom of the bucket, the pail, the barrel.  Then they send me the bill, for the entire fill, my hands now empty tins collecting, begging alms off those I love.  So, I put a pin in my care, like the dead wings of butterfly specimen, clip the few leaves I have, the bitter fruit, hard and unripe.  As this earth I too am being milked for conditions beyond anyone’s decision.  This is the nature of American spoonie life, this abyss of pain, this Pandora’s box within that opens up to horror show after horror show, mouth coughing up wound that won’t heal, consuming gauze without end.  And all I want to do is say nice things like other children do, but days go clattering like dominos—cataclysmic with less control, and I fall out of time, don’t know which direction to run in this wilderness, until all sense is gone, until the forest has fallen, every tree, without any aplomb.  Both person and place gone, everything demolished, there is no story, nothing to say.