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Two poems by Isabelle Ylo

Updated: Apr 30

What I Remember Most About the Union Dairy


The brightly glowing letters of UNION DAIRY FARMS,

a luminous neon declaration to the world. Weeds

sprouting from paint-chipped curbs that whispered

of better times, a dying city in late August.


We didn’t acknowledge it – the way summer

had slipped away from us, the future uncertain.

Inside, the buzz of seasonal workers in matching

t-shirts, blonde ponytails swinging over their


shoulders. Ice cream flavors with names like coconut

explosion, chocolate cherry overload, peanut butter

swirl. How we felt so perfect when we were kissing

on sidewalks, when we were running on borrowed


time. How everything became cursed after I moved

home. Aware, sick with it, that something crucial

had changed between us and would stay changed.

Containers full of hot fudge and caramel, honeyed


pecans and sliced almonds, maraschino cherries

soaked in their sweet syrup. Fresh slices

of pineapple and strawberries, cookie

crumbles and mini marshmallows, glistening


mounds of whipped cream. It was a sad ending, a sore

bruise to press, the moment at the end of sunset

when the light has all but slithered over

the horizon, and everyone becomes


a black silhouette against fading purple light.

Still, I remember: the smell of your jacket –

warm from your body – draped across

my shoulders as I watched a gummy worm


casually slip into the black hole of your mouth, that

beautiful weapon, that cause of death.


How We Got Lost in the Woods Around Homer Lake


How we set off along the west trail – insects buzzing, mid-April

sun beating down our necks. Yellow coneflowers,


honeysuckle, asters waved listlessly in the stifling breeze.

You were slow and bloated from months of day-drinking.


How I was disgusted by you, how you resented me for it.

Next summer, you said, we could buy a kayak and


go fishing here. As if you weren’t planning to leave me

by New Year’s Eve, as if we didn’t already hate each other.


Goldenrods swollen with insect galls, tickseed, false nettle

caught on our clothes. Several miles of gravel and dirt,


and you couldn’t think of anything else to say.

How sometimes we held hands in a grisly imitation of


how we began, how other times on the path I couldn’t

stand to touch your clammy palm. Somewhere


we took a wrong turn on the southeast end of the lake.

How long did we not notice?


Oranges, reds licked across the sky. We stumbled

through the prairie grasses and the bloodstained sun spilled


into the clouds and soaked our skin. How we shivered

as the air went cold, as the sky turned mottled purple


like a bruise. How we circled the lake, over and over.

How we couldn't figure out how to leave.


Isabelle Ylo resides in the suburbs of Chicago. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Beloit Poetry Journal, Emerge Literary Journal, Rappahannock Review, Salt Hill Journal, and more. 

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