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Laura Isabela Amsel

Laura Isabela Amsel has poems in recent issues of Crosswinds, Briar Cliff Review, Dunes Review, Nimrod, and Atlanta Review. Her poem “Father” won the 2022 Monica Taylor Poetry Prize, and A.E. Stallings selected her poem “Cain” for the 2022 Mikrokosmos Poetry Prize. Her first book, A Brief Campaign of Sting and Sweet, won the 2022 Brick Road Poetry Prize.

Naming Moons

Its light pools, spilling silver
on the plank floor, seeping

beneath closed doors—the Wolf
Moon, named by those who listened

to January’s howling. On haunches,
nose to sky, it ripples on the lake

like a thing alive,
tugging my own restless

tides till I dream the time
coyotes at dusk hunted you,

my first two sons, playing in a brush pile
in the field beside our house,

listening to their chorused cries,
full moon rising low

on the horizon. Howls coming nearer
panicked you home, naming

that place Coyote Place, naming
that moon, Coyote Moon. From that day

each full moon we named
or borrowed names

from that book you both loved:
February’s for us was Daffodil,

March was Worms Returning
or Sugar Moon for setting fruit.

Pink for phlox was April’s, May’s
the Moon of Shedding Cats and Ponies,

Tadpole Moon, Bluebird, too. June’s
moon Blackberry Blossom. July’s

Molting Moon for three hoot-owl
feathers we found beneath

his sweet gum roost.
For ten years you two called

the August moon Orange and Violet
for fritillary larva on passion flower,

till it became your new Sister’s Moon.
September’s Moon, Monarch, Milkweed,

Migrating Soon—your moon, wandering
firstborn, first of all moon-namers.

Second son, now you wear your full
moon tattooed but had uttered not a word

until your first, at two, was moon.
For you, October’s Mantis Moon

for the one you kept, fed spider eggs.
November’s Moon, Antlers Shed.

December’s, named Exploding Moon,
after our ice storm-shattered maple tree,

was the moon you came to claim,
last-born child, and it has fifteen times

waxed and waned. Though the four of you
long ago outgrew the game we made

of making sense by naming moons, tonight
I name mine: Moon Waiting to be Named.

First Born

Who knows not where a wasp does wear its sting?
William Shakespeare

Seven red velvet ants crossed my path. I should have known.
It was copperhead weather, the color of sumac, child birthing

season when earth leaned away from its sun a full minute, season
of hummingbirds on cleome and bee balm, of migrating monarchs

on milkweed and zinnia, of geese flying V’s. It was the season for stinging.
Weather was perfect for velveteen wasps; I should have known.

It was spider mum time, blackbird skies and buzzards circling.
Tangling, strangling nuchal cord season. September’s moon as empty

as an O. As empty as zero, an empty Apgar for a baby born blue.
A red sandglass sifted the black widow minute he did not

breathe. Looped cord cut free, bagged, he began—
his brown eyes, jaundiced moon-yellow. He’d stutter at five,

refuse to wear shoes half his life. Dressed in anything
tight, he’d cry. Sock-seams overloaded his senses. He roams now,

looking for loose, running from confines—Bulgaria, Thailand.
He wears Tevas in winter to give his toes room.

He remembers the noose.

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