My first thought
while leaning over it to puke
is of a fisherman emptying buckets
of dead shrimp bait into the sea

and of the sea itself
being a receptacle for dead things
the sea itself also
a turning rotting thing

Jonah called the sea the realm
of the dead the depths of hell the belly
for thou hast cast me into the deep
I close my eyes and swallow hard

and thy floods and thy waves pass over me
the taste is salted briny
my throat textured
like the grout under my knees

once I gave a boy
a blowjob in the park
and when I looked up
his face was dark I couldn’t see

the streetlamp hung behind him
like a halo
and me fluorescent Mary
running makeup running stockings
awestruck and eager
to receive

next time I spit it out
and flush
because Yeats taught me
that halos are just light nothing’s
what it seems and what sucks
is my passionate intensity
so I give

in to the white eye its gleam
a hurricane
spun out
gaze blank and pitiless
the sea
thousands of tiny swimmers
the fathom circling
the drain
and thy floods and thy waves




Birthday Cake


The candles trick me
stay lit and drip
blue wax in the frosting
I lean close eyes closed
toward the layers
of meaning
as fire again consumes

some years I just let it
take my silverware too
some years it makes sense
like falling
in the mind of a leaf
the way decadence and decay
rhyme with cake
and deadly

but sometimes I don’t
know how the sun keeps on setting
how it leaves
behind the trees
and sometimes I can’t
even remember having seen
darkness melt into strawberry

last time I was thirteen
wanted someone to love me
like Patrick from eighth grade
loved hiking had bad knees
and once peed off a cliff
on a field trip I wished
I could pee like that too
but I couldn’t so I climbed

down the trail kept on
turning around as sun
fused along the rim
of my view
and each fire-tipped tree
flared up as the wind
blew and blew




Mag Gabbert holds a PhD in creative writing from Texas Tech University and an MFA from The University of California at Riverside. Her essays and poems have been published or are forthcoming in journals including 32 PoemsStirringThe RumpusThe Boiler JournalPhoebe, Sugar House Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, and many others. Mag teaches creative writing for the Graduate Department of Liberal Studies at Southern Methodist University and for Writing Workshops Dallas; she also serves as an associate editor for Iron Horse Literary Review. For more information, please visit