Writers Reading: Natalie Giarratano

Self-Portrait as a Pair of Shoes Hanging from a Power Line       

~Natalie Giarratano


Notice both of us not because

you have to; sit in your car

at the red light because there’s

something you have to know:

all the birds are already here,

all of them weighing down

this wire, and we’re all fighting

lonesome—we cough up

sand to create our own

castles, our voices rise up

only to become stones

set loose to graze on hillsides.


There’s nothing but time here,

so, wait:  we could love you,

though, you should know,

we’ve seen the way you devote

yourself to pavement and always

appear to be rushing, leaving,

even if only molecules

and we know you are gone,

have seen you try to stomp

yourself out like a brown recluse

hiding in the cardboard

of that thing you call a chest.


The strings suspending us

disintegrate like the white

flowers on the church lawn

on which a dog daily pisses.

We’re not afraid, like his owner,

who carries a knife because                                                                                    

she dreams of a faceless stalker—

could be Jesus, an old lady or the po-

lice. This is such an easy town.

Everyone is semi-automatic, and kids

aren’t backed into corners by the white

face of the moon heavy above high-rises.


It’s in the seagull’s glassy

squawk—that dangerous way

one must find a music elastic

enough to carry all the songs

from all of the tides that have stopped

writing secrets of the universe

in sand; we just hum along

as though we already know

that music. It’s not enough—

living with this kind of make-

believe, flying even though

our heads are buried in sand.



Photo by Toby M. Schaeffer © 2013

Originally from small-town Southeast Texas, Natalie Giarratano received her MFA and PhD in creative writing from Western Michigan University. Her first collection of poems, Leaving Clean, won the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry and was published in June 2013 by Briery Creek Press. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in Gulf Stream: Poems of the Gulf Coast, American Literary Review, Laurel Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review, among others. D.A. Powell selected her work for inclusion in the 2011 edition of Best New Poets, and she won the 2011 Ann Stanford Poetry Prize from Southern California Review. She co-edits Pilot Light, an online journal of 21st century poetics and criticism, teaches writing at American University, and lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, Zach Green, and their pup, Miles.