from The New Promise

BY J River Helms


Unexpectedly he gathers strings, sticks.
Room to room & who comes the closest.

The rare case, how the murmured flash
surfaces: a compulsive blur of gray.

A joke about vulnerability, realization.
How a bird lands in my throat

& the itinerary shifts. Between the narratives
he sits, gnawing. Our hidden audience drawn.



Every month is April & every breath a snag
in the larynx. A moth replaces every organ,

the quantity of which remains unknown.
All fluttering, always fluttering. If breakage.

If dying. If sky turned steel, retching. Out of
our bloodied nothings the absolute unloosening.

No grave, no brick, no flaming hair. He goes on
& I go on & we go on. Never summer.


J River Helms is a nonbinary queer person from the South. Their work has appeared in Copper Nickel, DIAGRAM, Fairy Tale Review, Gertrude, New England Review, Redivider, and Sonora Review, among others. Machines Like Us, their first collection of poetry, was published by Dzanc in 2016. Their chapbook, The New Promise, is forthcoming from Tree Light Books. J currently lives in Brattleboro, VT.