Avery Guess

What I Want for Myself: A Sonnet

I don’t mean what I want to buy from Sephora or Lush
or Torrid though my online carts and credit card
balances might make you believe otherwise.

& I don’t mean a way to lose the weight finally,
to get down to the kind of fat that doesn’t require
a flight attendant to hand you a seatbelt extender.

& I don’t mean I want your eyes on my poems
if you think I’m a liar a crazy a faker a fucker
of fathers—someone who deserves what she got.

What I mean is I want more than I have taken
from this life so far with its eight tentacles
grasping at me from the ocean’s dark mouth.

I want to pull free, kiss each of those suckers,
& swim swim swim swim swim toward something.



Word Problem: Solving for X

Have you ever thought “closing a window is like x” where x is a simile that splits open a galaxy of understanding? We were always told to solve for x in algebra and geometry, to pin down the variable x like a frog’s leg in science lab. x = some number just out of reach.

Windows are not variable. They are constant. Except, in the case of a rock thrown at a certain (x) velocity. That’s the point the window becomes variable, when it loses its constancy. Closing a window is pointless at this point. Its pane shattered, the window is now in pain.

Girl x sleeps below an unbroken window at night. She, too, is in pain. Her window, window y, let’s call it, stands sentinel, watching without watching. It has no eyes. It’s see through. You can see through it. It cannot see though. Window y is whole. Is not holey. Has no holes.

Window y is usually closed because it is in South Florida and the air conditioning is running all the time. Window y is on the second floor, and everyone knows heat rises.

If girl x sleeps below window y every night, how much does window y know about girl x? Something reflective. Something reflecting what happened to girl x in full view of window y. Call that thing father z. Girl x + father z = well, you know the story. It doesn’t end well, not for girl x, anyway.

Window y has no way of telling. It remains closed. Pa(i)ned. Girl x finally tells her mother what father z did in full view of window y. “Are you sure he wasn’t just closing your window?” the mother responds.

Girl x closes.


Avery Moselle Guess (@averymguess) received a 2015 NEA Fellowship for Poetry. She’s a PhD student at USD and assistant editor for poetry at South Dakota Review. Recent publications include poems in Rogue Agent, Glass, and Rust + Moth, and creative non-fiction in Entropy and The Manifest-Station. Her chapbook, The Patient Admits, is out from dancing girl press, and her full-length collection of poetry, The Truth Is, will be published in 2019 by Black Lawrence Press.