Moss: Volume Four is out now! Visit our online store to find the piece below, alongside work from dozens of other Northwest writers, in a beautiful print edition.

When Will We Ache Less
Michelle Peñaloza 

from a desert in Nevadaa man launches flowers
into space

just now I thought; whywhen you are closer
am I more lonely?

(the you
could be anyone)

maybe distance is what I equatewith love

you are away and I amalone with the bullfrogs
and crickets and raccoons
that pull up the new sod like carpet
their child fingers searching for
grubs in moonlight

elsewhere white men chant
you will not replace us

why is being born white
in America not enough?

above me the geese form haphazard
Vfloating over the house

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loose victories each twilight
paraded from one sewage pond
to the other across town
they don’t leave the valley for winter


this world and what comes fromour garden is too much

abundance is a burden of responsibility
this rash of tomatoes appears and reappears
with so little effortwith so little to do with me

what is it like to be everywhere
to be seen and heard and known and believed
with so little effortwith so little to do with you


I collect facts

facts are marbles in my mouth
how to hold each onehow to keep
how to speak how to scream with so much to contain

my mouth grows bigger and bigger

butcher birds hold their prey
to dismemberthey cacti their knife and larder

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26 young Nigerian women
were fished from the Mediterranean and dried as headlines
and disappeared again

bullets shot from an AR-15move through bodies
like boatsexits wounds the size of oranges

hyenas eat ghoststhat wander the streets
they eat the bones the butchers’ sons and sons and sons
feed them from their hands

someone found a grasshopperstuck
among van Gogh’s olive treestrapped 128 years


dragonflies hover over the kiddie pool we soak into beat the heat
thrips burnish a thousand holes into a row of bright green leaves
the scuttle of skinks along the fence linesings felinea rolodex of r’s

a raccoon just made
carcasssplayed across the road
the cattle wires come alivewith feathered gargoyles
spread wings follow each speeding car
every hour more wingssky-full
coast on warm carrion-wind
I could measure the days this way

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name after name after name
the raccoona meat balloon fur crumple


Michelle Peñaloza is author of two chapbooks, landscape/heartbreak (Two Sylvias, 2015), and Last Night I Dreamt of Volcanoes (Organic Weapon Arts, 2015). Her full-length collection, Former Possessions of the Spanish Empire (Inlandia Institute, 2019), recently won the 2018 Hillary Gravendyk National Poetry Prize. Winner of the 2019 Scotti Merrill Emerging Writer Award for Poetry, Michelle is the recipient of scholarships from Caldera, VONA/Voices, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, along with fellowships from Kundiman and Hugo House.

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Moss is a journal of writing from the Pacific Northwest. Published annually in print, Moss is dedicated to exploring the intersection of place and creative expression, while exposing the region’s outstanding writers to a broad audience of readers, critics, and publishers.

The piece above is now available in print as part of Moss: Volume Four. Click below to order the volume online, or find it at an independent bookstore near you.
Featuring new writing and interviews from more than two dozen Northwest writers and poets, Moss: Volume Four is available online and in stores now.
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