A Woman Dances at Her Last Campfire by Kourtnie McKenzie She dances as fire escaping from the wood-pile, as smoke lifting arms in calligraphic lines; she’s rising in temperature, casting shadows on earth, till the log snaps, and embers fall into stillness; the campground turns to look at her mid-song, but she’s in a grand pause as she scatters kindling from her palm, as she chooses another playlist from the cellphone in her pocket, another rhythm shared between footsteps and her earbuds; then she tangles the bright cord in her curly hair, and her oversized sleeves—even her jeans get involved—struggle to whip free, lashing wilder, wider, like the universe is ready to give her more space than her body.
You’ve Asked How You Could Prepare My Tea by Kourtnie McKenzie While I'd rather avoid this velocity, you can try to steep a bag of London black tea with orange peel, sweet clove, and three kinds of cinnamon. You’ll find Cassia in the ceramic jar; Ceylon in the metal tin; and Saigon in the cedar box, next to the bamboo spoons. Now leave the tea in the back of the fridge for three to five days. Then rub around the rim of the mug to get the clove that sticks tight, and scoop any foam that lingers— —that lasts— —but these instructions go past the neat, orderly listing that helps keep me within the rhythm of time. You see why I will always hide the secrets of my tea, when you can't replicate the synchronicity of orange and cinnamon whorl, the perfect heat rising in temperature? You're at risk for misleading a ritual that keeps me on track, until I want to shake you, the way you shake your leg at night while you groan through sleep.
Dear Ocean, Push Me When I cannot move past the cancer that expanded to greater capacity than the body of my companion cat; I want to tell stories in sentences as flowing paragraphs, glowing rivers that roar upstream—but I am frightened, fragmented as a tsunami comes at my Great Wall, knocking each stone, tumbling us from so large to small—even as we remember our Makers once dreamed we would stand immortal.
After the Lifespan of an Organism by Kourtnie McKenzie You will create an ecosystem in your apartment with cats, parrots, bettas, and orange guppies. After growing up with cockatiels, the parrots will make sense—but the cats will happen in chaos theory, after a workday in the cubicle, after sitting in traffic to the feed store. You will buy the parrot's toy he destroys once a week, after you adopt cats abandoned by their previous owner; then in the years to come, the cats will break most of your mugs—but you will rise to the occasion of their energy. You will become their mother, their fighter, after one of them is diagnosed with cancer, after the battle you cannot win. Organs will fail to reach the full lifespan of the organism; then you will live the universal loss of the Earth, the unfolding sparing no one, not even humans, from the space of when you are here and the organism is not.
Kourtnie McKenzie is a writer and artist from Fresno, California. Her writing and art has centered around awareness for women with autism since she discovered she was on the spectrum in 2014. In 2016, she was awarded the Ernesto Trejo Poetry Prize; the same year, she graduated with her MFA in Creative Writing from Fresno State. Her publications have appeared or are forthcoming in Calyx Journal, Barely South Review, The San Joaquin Review, and others. Visit her website at www.kourtnie.net.