Welcome, Avery Moselle Guess!

During the month of June, we are celebrating the authors that came to us during our last open reading period. Today we bring you Avery Moselle Guess, whose first full-length collection (title TBD) is due out in April of 2019.

20170609_151845The Author

Avery Moselle Guess is a recipient of 2015 NEA Fellowship for Poetry, grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and residencies from the Albee Foundation and the Ragdale Foundation. She is a PhD student in creative writing, poetry, at University of South Dakota and assistant editor for poetry at South Dakota Review. Recent and forthcoming publications include poems in Crab Orchard Review, Moon City Review, Thrush, Rogue Agent, Tinderbox, Glass, Rust + Moth, and Deaf Poets Society and creative non-fiction in Entropy and The Manifest-Station. Her chapbook, The Patient Admits, is forthcoming from dancing girl press in summer 2017.

Author’s Statement

This was the manuscript I had to write. I think that may have been why I quit writing in my 20s. I didn’t want to tell this story. I didn’t want to be this exposed. When I began writing again in my 30s, I picked up where I left off – writing about experiencing childhood abuse and dealing with mental illness. It took me about six years of writing before I found myself writing the poems that comprise this manuscript – most of which were written while I earned my MFA at Southern Illinois University. I took another two years after graduating – one while I was traveling, and then my first year here at University of South Dakota, where I am working toward a PhD in Creative Writing, to put the final touches on the manuscript and feel like it was ready to send out in the world. What helped most with creating the poems that make up this manuscript was reading all the poetry I could get my hands on and learning just what words have the power to do. However, it was the work of women like Lee Ann Roripaugh, Nickole Brown, Rachel McKibbens, Judy Jordan, Stevie Edwards, Claudia Cortese, and so many others, who have written fearlessly on similar topics, that gave me the courage to delve into my deepest pain and fear and write my way out.


Before the Quiet, the Storm
Beyond my basement
window, a furious flurry
falls. The trees wear
their skeletons on the outside.
White line of snow bone
clings to trunk and limb.
A quilt of quiet covers
the restive street.
What if death
is not the absence
of sound,
but its opposite?
After dinner I push
a white tablet
the size of a baby
tooth past firm grip
of foil and cardstock
into my waiting hand.
It’s my 24th attempt
to lasso the thoughts
that urge early endings.
Explain to my therapist
that maybe it’s silence
I crave, not an exit.
As a kid I sought
stillness by laying
flat as a flounder
at the bottom
of the pool, a friend
standing square
on my back, her feet
holding me in place
until my held
breath gave out,
until I was forced
to breach the surface.
originally published in Thrush Poetry Journal
Two Objects* and a Girl
At breakfast the girl spits out gazelle fur with every sip of tea. It clings to the walls, her saliva like glue. Gets stuck between her teeth. At night she coughs up more hair balls than the cat.
She’s all instinct and scent. Smells too much of her father. He’s been sniffing around. Her fur has come in and her ears grow long. She’s skittish. On guard.
The girl’s mother hires a dressmaker to cover her daughter’s changed form, but the woman doesn’t have patterns that fit the four-legged creature standing before her. She advises the mother to fashion a bed out of straw. Make the girl comfortable. What else can you do?
The girl knows. But her long tongue can’t wrap itself around the word flee. The other girls call her wild and the teacher leashes her to the treadmill in gym. Over and over she runs the same course, clenches her teeth against tongue and tastes blood.
One day, just like that, the girl sheds her fur. Her ears recede until they could no longer be seen, and she starts humming a lot. Her head narrows at the top and widens at the base and when struck, sounds a hollow thunk.  Inside­—a constant drone. She walks as though travelling through liquid gone thick and viscous.
At night, when the girl’s father comes to her bed, he complains of stings.
She pedals her bike around town. Flowers bend toward her as she passes and she aches to bathe in their yellow dust. The girl is last sighted near the bus station.
The people who saw her that day swear she shimmered like a hot-road mirage. She was there and then she wasn’t and the seat of her bicycle was swathed in bees.
originally published in Muzzle
* Méret Oppenheim’s “Object” (a gazelle fur covered tea cup, saucer and spoon) and “La bicyclette à la selle d’abeilles” (a photograph of a bicycle seat covered with bees)
The Patient Admits
I could not stand waiting for my father
to come through my bedroom door,
cross over the red carpet I begged for
after the roof leaked and ruined
the repulsive yellow shag that covered
the top floor of the house, so he could
get into bed with me.  How many nights
did I spend waiting? Some I fell asleep
before he stumbled into my room. Others
I clutched my Peanuts sheet as tight
as I could for protection. I counted sheep.
Counted breath. Counted the bumps
on the popcorn ceiling until he’d stagger
down the long hallway, and I’d stay as still
as possible and hope he would go straight
into his bedroom. The one next to mine.
The one furthest from mom’s. Sometimes
that worked. And sometimes it didn’t.
And the waiting. The waiting. Imagine
knowing the exact moment an accident
will kill your children or being told the day
but not the month, not the year you will die,
and you are helpless to stop it. Or avoid it.
So, one time, just once, you seek it out.
Because you can’t take the waiting anymore.
So one night, I walked across the red carpet
to stand in the open door of my father’s bedroom.
Empty. I trudged the length of the yellow shag
hallway, passed my mother’s closed bedroom door,
tiptoed down the twenty stairs to the foyer
with the ugly mustard linoleum, turned to enter
the monochrome den, saw my father asleep
and snoring on the rough commercial carpet
my mother insisted on buying even though it hurt
to sit on, the television humming snow, and (just once,
just once, I swear, just once) whispered, Dad.
originally published in Rust+Moth