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Cortney Collins

I am a poet living in the shadow of the Front Range of Colorado. My work has been published by South Broadway Ghost Society, Devil’s Party Press, Back Patio Press, 24hr Neon Mag, Tiny Spoon Lit Mag, and Amethyst Review. I am a four-time winner of Fort Collins’ First Friday Poetry Slam at The Bean Cycle, and inaugurated a weekly virtual poetry open mic, Zoem, at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, that is still thriving and that I have proudly handed off to the community to continue. I live with my beloved cat, Pablo.

Ways to Be a Lighthouse Keeper

Never show up at all. Let the paint peel,
let ivy crawl up the sides of the stone cylinder
until it reaches the beacon, strangling it dark,
like a python constricting around its victim
as she exhales. Let mobs of schoolchildren
toss stones at blackened windows
until they break, leaving glass stalactites
suspended from cracked wooden frames, ready
to plunge like a guillotine into the heart
of anyone who tries to breach these openings
and pillage for treasures inside.

Let the lighthouse remain vacant,
but not unclaimed. Its black hole will
draw ships onto the outlying crag, a field of wreckage
where no one knows whose turn it is to apologize—
the rock, or the vessel? The lighthouse cannot
be held responsible.

Relentlessly warn all ships
of danger. Sound the foghorn continuously.
Send a ruthless beam of light out onto the water,
a search party hunting for fugitives
amongst the kelp. Know that even if
the surrounding waters lap gently at the shore,
a litter of puppies nestling into their mother’s belly,
a hurricane can slam the pier at any moment.

Never rest. Even as sailboats moor quietly in the harbor
under terra cotta skies, remind them
of the horrors of the deep—the creatures
with tentacles and machete teeth. Caution sailors
against the lure of the mermaid’s song, the wiles
of maritime panhandlers. Let them thank you later.

Watch and wait. Flood the bay
with luminescence. Scan the horizon,
sketch trails of phosphorescent fish on canvas
with pastels, an easel propped up
in the lantern room behind the astragal bars
that buffer against raging wind and slicing rain.
Track the migration of narwhals and wonder
if they taught humans celestial navigation,
if the sextant originated around the same time
as the sundial, if dolphins knew centuries ago
that language is the opposite of communion.

Write your questions on each concrete step
leading up the spiral staircase to the tower, where
you threw the sacred text out the window
and into the waters below years ago.
They already know the way home.

These are by no means
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