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Amy Small-McKinney

Learning Life in Pieces

Hanging branchlets. A few cones. 
It’s a weeping spruce I learn.
A dogwood petal drops into my lap, brown.
The witch hazel leaves also browning.
Is this the beginning of blight?
A Carolina Wren sits on the side 
of a flat-raised bed, flies away.
A plane overhead, flies away.
I want to relearn the world, begin
with common bird calls.
Experts describe the Carolina Wren song as 
            tea kettle, tea kettle, tea kettle.
I learn he has at least thirty tunes—
I hear: 
            me too, me too, me too.

We never moved to the mountains.

Rock-solid soil, your dwelling now.

I am relearning the world, its secret beauty.
Not so secret 
            after all. 

Lifted by helicopter. Received by waiting
surgeon. This is my heart, melting ice.
These are the arteries pristine as new ice.
It is the muscle that is tired. Weakened old
woman needed to stop. These are the pills 
I’ll take twice a day.  These are the pills
that might rebuild my muscle, restart
the blood’s travel around the sun.

Today a young neighbor wrote her first poem.
I told her to select words and write anything,
not to think. Why does this matter?
She picked magic and despair.

        me too   me too   me too

Amy Small-McKinney’s third chapbook, One Day I Am A Field, was written during COVID and her husband’s death (Glass Lyre Press, 2022). For the 2020 virtual AWP, she co-moderated an interactive discussion, Writing Through Grief & Loss: The Intersection of Social and Personal Grief During COVID.  Her second full-length book, Walking Toward Cranes, won The Kithara Book Prize (Glass Lyre, 2016). Small-McKinney has been published in numerous journals, for example, American Poetry Review, Pedestal Magazine, Cortland Review, Baltimore Review, Connotation Press, and Comstock Review, among others. Most recently, she is a contributor to Anhinga Press’s new anthology Rumors, Secrets, & Lies: Poems about Pregnancy, Abortion, & Choice. Her poems have also been translated into Romanian and Korean. Her book reviews have appeared in journals, such as Prairie Schooner and Matter. Her current manuscript, still looking for a home, was a finalist with Trio House Press, White Pine Press, and Barrow Street Press. Small-McKinney was the 2011 Montgomery County (PA) Poet Laureate, judged by poet Chris Bursk. She has a degree in Clinical Neuropsychology from Drexel and an MFA in Poetry from Drew University. Small-McKinney resides in Philadelphia.

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