Kelly Gray
October 2020

Kelly Gray (she/her) is a writer and educator living among the redwood trees on occupied Coast Miwok land. Kelly's book of poetry Instructions for an Animal Body (forthcoming, Moon Tide Press) explores tensions between loss and survival, de-centering human narratives, flipping constructs around predator and prey, violence and sexuality, and embracing cringe worthy notions of the ugly within. Kelly is a Best of the Net nominee and her writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Atticus Review, River Teeth, Lunch Ticket, Pretty Owl Poetry, The Nervous Breakdown, 3Element Review, CULTURAL WEEKLY, Bracken Magazine, and elsewhere.  She is currently working on a chapbook of short stories examining the messy intersections of love, abuse, tiger paws and knives. To learn more visit



  1. My fear of death, but really my way of tricking you into thinking I welcome death

  2. The rot of capitalism in my Post Office Box, while we still have a Post Office, my stack of bills that I leave until the box is so full they threaten to revoke it

  3. My period, the way I ruin sheets once a month

  4. Zombies, I am told it is a hallmark 

  5. The sound of the ocean while camping, unable to sleep, left wide eyed by the wait for the next wave to break

  6. When you close your eyes to listen to the sound of the plague and hear the rubbing of a thousand insect wings in the architecture of liberalism refusing to wear masks as you know the locusts have arrived in the form of women who refer to themselves as goddesses 

  7. The death of pets, specifically 

  8. My child needing to be fed 

  9. My hair needing to be dyed 

  10. The longest wait as coffee grinds, water boils

  11. My anxiety pooling in a divot in my stomach carved out by people who are now dead, or that act dead, people that scream at me from graves beneath my feet which are really just empty spaces waiting to be filled with bodies who no longer want to be near me

  12. Dreams about tsunamis that originate from swimming pools filled with gators and the crumbling seaside cliffs that we used to walk beneath, collecting garbage and bull kelp to build sculptures of sea witches

  13. My mother’s voice caught in my throat

  14. Waking every night at 11pm, gasping for air, hearing plates broken above my head

  15. My desire to eat pink donuts 

  16. My desire to eat pink 

  17. My desire to eat

  18. My desire 

  19. My capacity to impose beauty where there is none

  20. My capacity to stand up when all I want to do is get gut punched so hard that I can’t do anything but lay on cool linoleum looking at the underside of a sink that holds the water of my face that I apply and reapply every day 

  21. My capacity for curiosity, wondering how many people are gut punchers  

  22. My need to suck the spit from his mouth through the hole in his cock 

  23. The sixth day, for on the sixth day I feel the grip in my chest, the whisper that says, “You will lose something today, by scythe or by text, by tree falling on your home”

  24. My asking: Did I love enough? Will they forget my mother’s voice in my throat? Will they think that I was kind? 

  25. The bill from my therapist that ensures I have six more days that I can look at my roof without the pull of my psoas collapsing me into a position that they said I did fetal even though I am pretty sure that even there, maybe especially there, I was swimming backwards eating pink tsunamis of broken plates wondering why all the magic happens in the days after death like my blood in the shape of a valentine caught in the sheets of my bed, relentless. 


They took my body into the bowels of the football team, 

raised me like a flag from the outhouse to

a party where my knees buckled, 

tongue brazen as the bold lettering of jacket number 37, 


They pinned me 14 hands wall, 

told my breasts they were too soft, 

coached on like pep

like rally, 

like soda stitched cafeteria sick, 

where will you eat lunch now? 


Expelled for throwing books 

in the deep recess of Psych 101

pages as open as my legs held by 

definitions not yet brought on by cultural commentary of new day, 


All the girls said we will never love you now, 

you suck dick like trick, you’re kind of like a boy. 


Cheering like dolls with 

cheap lips and volley 

net as my disguise, 


I should have torched your hallways 

at the first slap of slut 

dragged my nails across the locker room bench 

wet with stench sweat told holy by a team

as you shot

spit wad cum into the back of our necks, 

while we penned essays on Joseph Conrad, “The horror, the horror!” 


All the baby queer bois, the angriest of us all,

up the hill working hard to look like 

tractor cut grass

invisible bend overs stuck in the slur of a neck turned red

I remember his knuckled notes from across the aisle, 


I should have slit your throat 

twenty-five years later across from me in a new class, 

me as the teacher while

you still look like gold, 

soft like agriculture slipping across a hill, 


Instead I taught you to hold your wife’s face 

as she labored your son that I could feel in the swell of her belly,

I pulled your hands to her hips and said into the space between the two of you, 

no not like this, hold her here, so she does not fly away, 

I touched your hands like you didn’t rape that boy blind, 


Do you remember me? I asked you. 

Naaaaaah, you said, as you blinked back the recognition of my childhood. 


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