Alysse McCanna

Family Dollar

The automatic glass doors
open and close
like a mouth.

Fluorescence whitewashes
the rows of floating orbs in jars,
the umbrellas and reading glasses
and greeting cards and lemon drops.

A handwritten sign at the counter
says Sorry! We can’t take
anything larger than a $20.

The woman standing there
with her items of
eight dollars & change,

her trembling hand
holding a $50,

wonders how she
can have both

too much
and not enough.


My Mother Saves a Man O’ War

The Portuguese Man O’ War
is a carnivore.

My mother found one on the beach,
just out of reach

Of hungry waves, purple beauty stranded
and my mother, open-handed,

Scooped him into a coconut with a piece of shell,
careful not to cut the tender swell

Of his dangling electric tentacle, thick as kelp and full
of venom, that pulled

my tiny mother, brittle of bone,
to the slippery stones

to, in keeping with Newton’s third law of motion,
fling him back into the ocean.



When he was still my husband,
he handed me a pear on a hot afternoon in August.

Lizzie Borden was eating a pear,
was eating three pears
in a dusty barn.

Sylvia Plath watched the pears
fatten like little Buddhas.

When he was still my husband,
he saw God in apple seeds. Sometimes
I was a prophet; I opened the door before the bell was rung.

Van Gogh painted yellow pears etched with white lines.
They are lumpy, they look like amputated heels or palms
or like eggs with wiggling baby chicks inside.

When he was still my husband,
he handed me a pear on a hot afternoon in August.
A storm was coming over the mountains.
I bit into it. It was full of worms and light.


Alysse Kathleen McCanna was born and raised in the midwest. She graduated from Smith College in 2007 and received her MFA in Writing and Literature from Bennington College in 2015. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Boulevard, The Comstock Review, Driftwood, Madcap, and The Olentangy Review, among other journals.

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