A WOMAN DANCES AT HER LAST CAMPFIRE, Kourtnie McKenzie

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.
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YOU’VE ASKED HOW YOU COULD PREPARE MY TEA, Kourtnie McKenzie

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, Kourtnie McKenzie

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, Kourtnie McKenzie

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.