Cutter Quilt

Isabel Duarte-Gray

I.the night river is a woman washingclean the moonupon forgiving rocksII.are these nails my person are theydead apart of me the callus whereI grip my drawknife all my lifewas pink as hatchlings ora child born just a littledead already tied and then Iwaked to watch his afterbirthbe buried in a holein TennesseeIII.cowslips are so namedto tell us where to watch the ground for shitour fathers planted flagscarved out of soundscarved flowersIV.here in winterdarkness findsmy hand trapped in the velvetof the sumac and the velvetof the antlerV.a cat’s tongue is a briar patcha dog’s tongue is a madstonea snake’s tongue is a trigger fingerMan’s tongue pleases no oneVI.when a dove is shot’s the only timeto see her color true the way her color isa hinge into the grayrolls into fawn wades intomorning pink it’s as ifspeckles storming on the troutcaught in a basincaught the lightVII.the women beat the stains into the waterthe river beats the stain into the land                                                                                                                Dycusburg, Kentucky

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Isabel Duarte-Gray was born in Oakland, California and raised in a trailer in Kuttawa, Kentucky. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University, where she studies Latinx Literature, Poetry, and Ecocriticism. She received her B.A. in English and Russian from Amherst College. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Colorado Review, Bat City Review, The South Carolina Review, and december magazine, among others.  

“Isabel Duarte-Gray’s book is like no other — a text that ‘thinks the spell,’ cut-off tales, callings, sudden leaps in lines ‘split in two,’ perhaps like this collection itself, splicing carefully through the belly, the heart and the sternum — animals, wives and husbands. You choose. The more you read, the more you scrape and peel through the night fallen - ‘sniffing for the temperatures of life.’ Isabel Duarte-Gray’s grasp of deep and perhaps forbidden vernaculars, cultural edges and crossings is profound. The place is underground, underwater, under the crackling structures and somewhere inside abandoned, formless barns in a far-off crimson. An immediate prize-winner. A bold, brave, rare, genius, meticulous, deeper and deeper at work.”
—Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of the United States, Emeritus

“The creeks the tears the patriarchy. The Osage orange the intelligible terror. The tiny towns. The no towns at all. The dragonflies the bones the lilies. The difficult ongoing work of recovery. The marriages the handsewn linens the burials. The excess. The shortage. The fear, and the ways to get past that fear. The lists. The anecdotes. The scenes set and dismantled. The herbals the escapees the strings .The listening. That's what you'll find, and it's far from all you'll find, in this strong first collection, a song of songs, an evidence of evidence, a manifestation from places some of us know and many more of us should hear. I give thanks for it.”
—Stephanie Burt

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