poems by Dani Putney • Empty Mirror

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Potato Bugs

For Breanna

On an electric box outside your house,
I told you potato bugs were tragically beautiful.
You mentioned wasps:
how an arrow sits on their striped abdomens,
nature’s untouched codex.
There the poem started in your mouth—
a root canal to birth words.
Through circumstantial calculus
a beehive began to produce our honey.
Every good tree bears fruit,
like avocados on our late sandwiches,
decomposed into phosphorus and nitrogen.
We’re cyclical:
time-chasers on this capitalist monument,
strings of marionettes dangling
Dylan Thomas lines.
You and I, we’re rooted
in a network of inky capillaries,
blood pulsing with dead words,
tragically alive.

Gates of Paradise

I want to show you
the Gates of Paradise
at the Florence Baptistery.

Do you appreciate
the gilded bronze,
the perfect

linear perspective? How about
the ten Old Testament scenes
depicted on each golden relief?

Every time I say God,
you spit out Leviticus.
My inner macabre

coaxes an apologist from me—
I’m sorry
for tainting your Bible

with marred skin, unholy saliva.
Forgive me, Mother,
for I have sinned.

But we’ll walk through these gates,
I won’t burst into flames.
You won’t need to hold my hand

to endow me with tactile piety.
Heaven isn’t
what you think it is.

Freedom in Six Parts

For Savvy, Katherine, DeAna, and me

1.
I remember him
complaining about Spanish class.
Those were the days
I mistook youthfulness for absolution.

2.

¿Por qué no está en la cárcel?
He wore victimhood

like a war story—
convinced me the devil lives
in a woman’s heart.
Pero es el diablo.

3.
His hands left holes
all over—
flesh the gun,
skin the bullet.
I want to ask:
Did it burn
when he touched you?

4.
Crime begets punishment,
only we’re choked
by man’s grip.
He thought himself
extraordinary.

5.
All I see is un monstruo.
Merriam-Webster gives this:
He faced a life sentence
on charges of rape.
If only a dictionary
could set us free.

6.
No estamos libres
mientras él está libre
.

About Dani Putney

Dani Putney is a queer, non-binary, Asian American poet exploring the West. Their poetry most recently appears or is forthcoming in The Chaffin Journal, Juke Joint Magazine, and trampset, among other publications. Presently, they’re infiltrating a small conservative town in the middle of the Nevada desert.

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