Claire Pinkston


I almost died again last night, although you wouldn’t know it,
and every morning I wake up the same: walnut-shelled
and shivering and newborn, mouth closing and closing.
when he told me, I kept myself awake all night,
categorically reviewing all the sharps in the house:
the steak knife in the drawer downstairs. the razors
I use to shave my legs. the kitchen table’s blinking eye.
and in the morning I cup my shoulder back to bone, splinter
hull to stern. I let oil run dark over my fingertips
and think of my lover’s hands in my hair. god,
when I grow up I want to be alive. the thin rope
of my throat tightening into something I can trust. for now,
I press myself against the door’s uneven grain, wait
for the shuffle of my brother’s breath, and I am kept
like that, sheltered in a place beyond
language, a place even the dead cannot touch. listen.
my brother’s breathing, carved into the faintest of windows.
we are all just trying to make it through the night.



I Ask My Mother for the Source of Our Ache/Improvisations on a Theme

my mother says she believes in making things
work. making things work
means our house hangs

heavy and dark as a mottled bruise and no
one has emerged untouched. means,

the dark of my knees can be its own
currency, depending on the season.

my mother says I have lost myself to pathetic fallacy,
but I need to believe the night has a face, too,

or, if not that, if only, a mouth wide enough
to hold the shape of my want.

the hair closest to the small of my neck refuses
to curl properly. call this weakness achilles

heel. in my dreams, the girl touches
my thigh experimentally, over and over,

as though expecting to be hurt.
you make me feel so much whiter, she says.

my mother presses her lips to my cheek like
this time, the hurt won’t bleed through.



Claire Pinkston is a seventeen-year-old biracial Black poet and writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has previously been recognized at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and is published or forthcoming in Lumiere Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and The Hellebore, among others. She is growing with her poetry.