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I Was Not a Tender Lover by Michelle Hulan

Nominated for Best of the Net

I swallowed air more than I breathed it. Took space

more than I held it. He said I’d die

ten times and still rise a woman made of bees

swarming chrysanthemums, dragging dust

between worlds. I said he lassoed meaning

in a house of mirrors, pushing his hands

through glass to find memory, grabbing

my shoulders, which have a history of shrugging.

I clutched the crests of my stomach, and he reminded me

I was not soft. I took my knuckles

to his lips. Called them hissing mollusks

in the sand. At dawn, he said most of me was the tongue

of a bell clanging against copper until only what echoed

remained. I said the rest was light.


Michelle Hulan (she/her) is a poet and writer. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Chestnut Review, Poet Lore, Sundog Lit, RHINO, and elsewhere. She received her MA in English from the University of Ottawa and lives in Brooklyn with her family. Follow her on Twitter @michellehulan.

Art by Five South


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