Jaclyn Dwyer

Two poems from Jaclyn Dwyer’s Girl of the Year
followed by a note on the author

Praise Poem for American Girls

Here’s to scissors that clip split ends easily as ex-
boyfriends, the one who died in college, the refugee
who crossed a blood soaked Nile, but never could
get over you. Cheers to his hibiscus tea, to strong

coffee and Kentucky bourbon. Daughters pulled deep
into Ohioan corn, romances banished to backseats
and barstools. Here’s to newlyweds two-stepping
to the second line waving paper napkins with new names

printed in gold. Praise helicopters hovering over frozen
lakes in Madison. Wide blades break the ice, a thick fog
of ozone trapping brides and wives. Boys toppled out
of boats, girls pushed in, the surfacing bodies of all the kids

who couldn’t swim. Praise black loops, lazy coils etched
down 80 like pubic hairs roping down a long white leg.
Praise snow clotting fat cataracts over the road. There is
nothing for miles, only your hot breath unraveling a memory

of wet wool. Blonde girls in hoop skirts getting hitched
in a barn, yellow hair glowing brighter than a burnished
brass sax in Memphis. Praise grandmothers who still pin
laundry outside, their long fingers the brittle wax

of weeping candles. Fruit flies that fill the kitchen and keep
you company nights he is away, his skin clapping
against the sweet country ribs of his ex. Praise the end
of a an excuse with an interrogative. Who? Honey,

praise you. Long legs. High arches. The body you never
used for ballet. Dinners you wasted and drinks
you couldn’t finish. Praise your revolving hips: Hula hoop champ,
flip flops shaken loose in the grass. Your heady

lip gloss shines a Montana moon. Denim laced to fringe
over a fence during crowning for the Milk-Can Dinner
Queen. The silkscreened tee puckered across your chest:
Not All Tetons Are Grand Tetons But Mine Are

The Wreck

We approach the flipped truck –
an upturned turtle on the dark
lawn. You pull to a stop on the shoulder,

grit settles into gravel surf, and say,
“Stay in the car.” I would have
driven past, but you belly-crawl

on broken glass, lay like a child
trying to lure a cat from under
the bed until the sirens take over.

I want to lie under you, test
your flame-retardant cape,
but we leave before the extraction.

Before surgeons hand off
a waxy kidney like an old
telephone still trailing a limp

cord, packed in ice and cradled
like an endzone pass. Before
a set of lungs are helicoptered,

heart still attached. Somewhere
a woman sleeps alone for the first
time in years. We wake to a mad

doe stripping the room, tracking
the scent of her salted buck,
ramming wet into the wall.

Jaclyn Dwyer’s fiction and poetry have been published in a number of literary magazines, most recently Rattle, Ploughshares, Pleiades, and Witness. She received a Tennessee Williams Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and a Kingsbury Fellowship from Florida State University, where she is a PhD candidate in creative writing.

Praise Poem for American Girls first appeared in Ploughshares; The Wreck first appeared in Columbia Poetry Review.