Issue 5 / Poetry

Poetry by McKenzie Lynn Tozan



My second relationship looked something like this:


spun from what was left

in the kitchen each night, all fish


and sinew. He had the largest hands,

butcher-palms, blood under the nails,


and his teeth were white scarecrows

after too many fights. The salt-blue eyes


stared as he forced my head back

into the sink and hair down


into the drain, flipped the switch.


The teeth whirred, and the knives nearby

became birds charading


in children’s clothes. I tilted my head

farther back until I could see the sky


through the small window:


the stars were going by in small pools.






We are sitting in a worn-out cafe, with fruit

a little too far gone, and she decides to explain it


to me like this: the neighbors’ boy was there

while the parents were away, the summer heat


beating down, all the birds like feathered shade

along the electric wires. She poured the oil


and sunscreen into his small hands, drenching

the palms, and she asked him to rub the concoction


across her skin. Her back, at first, and then her arms.

Her legs. And when he arrived in front of her, standing


between her knees, she remembers how he—gently,

child-like—touched two fingers to one side of her face,


and then the other, rubbing the oil into her blushing cheeks.

He was so close, she could feel the coolness


of his breath where the oil was drying, and she kissed him.

She says it was fast and soft, and the boy was quiet,


looking around as if searching for more clothes. I am part geranium.

I imagine this boy, the lotion on his hands, pressing


and releasing, and then the kiss—which opened up

every sense in the world. How he, too, could lean in


and start something small.



McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives and writes in South Bend, Indiana, where she teaches composition at Indiana University South Bend. She received her MFA in Poetry from Western Michigan University, where she worked as the Layout and Design Editor for New Issues Poetry and Prose. Her poems have appeared in Encore Magazine, Sleet Magazine, Rogue Agent, Thank You for Swallowing, and Analecta; and her book reviews have appeared on The Rumpus. For more, visit Selected by Oliver de la Paz.

Image © Stephanie Sicore via Flickr Creative Commons.