Elisabeth Horan and Amanda McLeod (Western Voices 2020)

Exclusive: Western Voices, 2020: Edited by Scott Thomas Outlar
Elisabeth Horan is an imperfect creature from Vermont advocating for animals, children and those suffering alone and in pain - especially those ostracized by disability and mental illness. She is Editor in Chief at Animal Heart Press, and Co-Editor at Ice Floe Press. She has several chaps and collections out at Bone & Ink Press, Fly on the Wall Press, Twist It Press, Rhythm and Bones Press, Cephalo Press, and Animal Heart Press. Her newest collection, Alcoholic Betty, is available now at Fly on the Wall Poetry Press. She is a poetry mentor to many up and coming brilliant poets, and proud momma to Peter and Thomas. She recently earned her MA from SNHU, and her MFA from Lindenwood University. She is a 2018 Pushcart Nominee and a 2018 and 2019 Best of the Net Nominee. Follow her @ehoranpoet  &  ehoranpoet.com

Amanda McLeod is a creative based in Canberra, Australia. Her catalogue of written work includes fiction, poetry, and book reviews; and she also works in the visual media of oils and watercolours. Amanda is the Managing Editor at Animal Heart Press, where she finds great satisfaction in helping authors bring their books to life, and curates the press’s Featured Artist series. She is a wife, mama, animal cuddler, avid lover of wild places (especially if there’s water), thinker, dreamer, questioner, and cheese aficionado.

When mammals face death
For Amanda

Let go
Blow out every pain
As a whale lets go her air
Immense, the sighs
As such as an enormous mammal might, when
Facing extinction.

She heaves and shudders
So exposed, everything she's ever fought for
Is on the line tonight, this month, year,
Every damn krill turned to energy to nurse
A calf. And now…
She is afraid of dying
But also so very afraid of forgetting to breathe


Giving up, and failing her children.
Can she surface, or will the weight
Sink her, deep into a place
She can never escape…

Watch the bubbles trace a path
To the light. She will follow them
Even as her lungs scream and
She strives for one last day of normal
One more moment of peace
Stroking useless and
Complacent, this is the
End or the beginning
They blur together, hot and cold
Water and she can’t tell anymore
Where one begins and the other ends.


Spidery lines weave their way down
From my clenched teeth, through my jaw
Along my spine and across my sanity
Shield me---hold my pieces together
Don't let go. See me
Erode; see me unravel
Try not to panic, not to vomit.
I feel like my hands don't belong to my
Own body, when I bathe, or when I snap
Together my bra---a detached tingle
White and burning rash-abnormal
I peer out from deep within
My own skull...nothing is real
Everything plays in slow motion
Like smoke, and it swirls around me
Thick, viscous, and I can’t see
Through the heaviness.

When things fall apart, I remember Charlotte…
Her beautiful web.
My clenched teeth, in panic.
She tells me:
The light in the darkness;
optimism, rare like rubies…
And yet I am penniless.


How do you wanna go out?
In a blaze of glory, like a firework?
Or quietly, through the back door,
So no one sees you leave?
I want to go as a murdervictim
The worst thing I can think of
At least it'd not be my fault
Unless I asked for it---

I ask for everything
Crackles and drag
Moonless swallows
Motherless fledglings

At least I know what I deserve.

I wonder though what it might be like
To fly through the dark
Sparkle, explode like a supernova
Then fade into memory…

It seems like a comfortable place
To exist, where all your faults
Are erased by the passage of time.
I wanna go out now.

Is that ok to say?
To admit… I'm not having fun
My dreams, my dreams
Smell like rotten fish
And my children.

This is code.
Some need to be everywhere---
Anywhere but here... a place
Where the smell in my nostrils
Is gunpowder.

Am I a firework, or a bullet?
Both are explosions.

And either would be sweet relief,
Cold midnight in my face
Quiet. Anonymous.
With no concerns about
Where I might stop.

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