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Mistee St. Clair

Mistee St. Clair is the author of This Morning is Different, an Alaska Literary Award grantee, and has poems forthcoming in or has been published by The Common, Split Rock Review, Northwest Review, SWWIM Every Day, and others. She is a 49 Writers board member and lives with her family and border collie in Juneau, Alaska, a northern rainforest, and works for the Alaska State Legislature. She can be found at

Shaving My Father

I was twelve when my father asked me to shave him.
He was living in a travel trailer and I remember
I sat on his bed and he laid his head in my lap,
the blade in my fingertips, the blade

on his neck. I remember when I paused
to rinse it he took drags off his cigarette
and told tomorrow’s story. The same as yesterday.

I thought how easy it would be to make a vertical incision
from his chin down to the hollow of his collarbone.
It seemed that way he would open like a butterfly.

And if I scored horizontal. If I watched his face.
Those copper eyes on me. What it would smell like,
the cigarette still burning in the thick spice of blood.

I thought of how many promises he had made
while the razor grazed along, his skin softening,
as I stared at the faint fan creasing his eyes and the old scar
under his left eye that I wanted to touch.

This Bleeding Heart

Is not bleeding
at all. It is not a heart.
But a perennial spilling
its own appetite,
out of control, barely
holding upright,
like a drunk.
All its hearts hanging
like toddlers on a leg,
wanting so much.

I’ve seen hearts bleed.

In mine is my father, dying
like he’s making his way,
one heavy page a day,
through a Russian novel.

I’ve seen how hearts bleed

and they are not pink or delicate.
They are dark beasts quivering
like shapeshifters caught
between bodies. They beg
to live, even when living
is its own wound.

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