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Janet McNally is author of the young adult novel Girls in the Moon (HarperCollins), and a collection of poems, Some Girls, winner of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize. She has an MFA from the University of Notre Dame, and has twice been a fiction fellow with the New York Foundation for the Arts. Janet teaches creative writing at Canisius College.

2 poems by Janet McNally

From Questions About Animals



What is the most dangerous animal?


What happens when you carry a whole

ocean inside your ribcage?


What if you’re shimmered

into glitter and shake?


They say I’m made of stars

but I feel like a furnace. Marching band


drum-beat, headlights tracing walls.

Knockout rose in sunshine, blind


tuber buried deep. I’m leftover

whisper, deadfall hush. I only know


how to wish, how to open, how

to blow away. I’m seasick, star-sided,


lit up electric blue. I’m just telling you

so you understand the risk.


A tripwire heart

won’t come when you call her.


I’ll never teach you not to want.


Why can’t animals survive on Jupiter?


You wore radiation like a coat

and the stars rained silver.


Walking was like walking

on tacks. When I opened


my mouth the air was

elsewhere, and all that sparkle


was sidewalk grit. You might have

thought it was hydrogen.


You might have forgotten

how to leave. It happens,


sometimes, this interplanetary

euphoria. It’s a sort of lifting off.


Listen: there’s a lot of time left

or there isn’t. Some storms


take millennia to calm. All I know is,

once we started, we couldn’t stop,


kept spinning in an orbit

too hard to escape.


You promised me something else.

My breath is still. My heart is still



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