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Two poems by Julia Armstrong

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Self Portrait as Cataclysm

I take the birds, too. sweep them shrilling into my all-consuming arms. the air reeks of fish—no beaks to pick it clean. I drive animals stumbling into quicksand, careless of their cries. I am blizzard, rockslide, wildfire. I am the drowning in every ocean— when the tides go out, what remains is fresh graves & no one to pray them closed. I silver the plants, smite the insects, salt the fields. I am chalk and char and rot. I sow bones to grow to reap again. I am what kills us: my body, the first and final frost. my hands feather soft & bloodless.

Bay Bridge Love Note

People overcomplicate, so I date a bridge. The Bay Bridge and I are girlfriends. In this language, she is the pronoun for those who carry (ships, trains, cars, countries). The bridge carries me. Miles and miles she carries me. Her girders mean I am weightless. Her electricity and mine a song in the wiring, and we sing of spark plugs and power couplings. The trembling silver cores of tension cables. She spans a harbor. I stretch to become. Press my lips to her power. Her steel wings, soft arc and easy sweep. If I stop moving, she pulls me into sleep. I will be in the way of birds. I am the repeated touching down to shore. The reprise of land. Brief womb for ships. To be a long shadow over water. My arms turned wire-trussed towers to hold her, rising like a Venus from fog. There is wanting, and then: sunsets caught like rainbow fish in our nets of lace and metal.

Julia Armstrong graduated from Washington College in 2015 with a BA in English and creative writing. From then until 2020, she worked for her alma mater as the administrative assistant for the Rose O’Neill Literary House. In 2017, she was awarded an Individual Artist Grant in poetry from the Maryland State Arts Council. Her work has appeared in RHINO, Gulf Stream, Nashville Review, and Tampa Review. Julia received her MFA in poetry from Virginia Tech in 2023.

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