The National Poetry Review

Chrys Tobey


There are only half a dozen men of letters (and no women) worth printing.
— T.S. Eliot

A weird occurrence for years: women had
no talent. Zero. Zilch. They could not write.
They could not conceive a metaphor— sky
is a nipple? Sky is menstrual blood?
tried. But their dainty brains could not do it.
No rhythm, no sensory detail – His
toupee looked like a coupe?
Men said, Read more!
They sighed, You’ll get it one day. The women
practiced placing semicolons in verse
long as their husband’s ear hair. They practiced
alliteration from dust till dawn— the
precious ponies procreate?
The men were
flabbergasted, stunned. They shook their heads and
muttered, Well, if only women could write.




Your old-fashioned tirade –
loving, rapid, merciless –
breaks like the Atlantic Ocean on my head.
—Robert Lowell

In a land called the U.S.A., in a time twenty years ago, there lived a clown, not a John Wayne Gacey clown, just your common clown. There was a girl, about nineteen. She was also a clown. They lived in a funhouse on a beach, where they sat at the top of a tall slide, painted on faces, slept in a ball pit with arms around red noses as they breathed in salty breeze. They’d run on the sand. Wigs bounced. Collars flapped. Sometimes the girl would wake up and find the clown tiptoeing outside. Maybe he was only pulling late night pranks. She didn’t know. She didn’t know if love is supposed to be a spinning wheel, something that makes you scream. One night the clown came home, whisky on his breath. For some reason, he mistook her for a Shake Off ride. He shook her and shook her until bruises bloomed like purple balloons around her wrists. Another night, the clown somehow confused her for a highstriker game, his hand not quite an ocean wave, but a hammer. The final night, the clown kicked in their funhouse door. Bitch, he screamed as he dragged her down the slide by her hair, not mistaking her for anything but a girl. I don’t think she cried, but I think she looked at herself in the funhouse mirror, and I don’t really want to remember what she saw.

CHRYS TOBEY’s poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals, including the minnesota review, Rattle, New Ohio Review, Ploughshares, Smartish Pace and The Cincinnati Review. Her poetry has also been nominated for the Pushcart, Best of the Net, and featured on Verse Daily. Her first book of poetry, A Woman is a Woman is a Woman is a Woman, was published in 2017 from Steel Toe Books. Chrys lives in Portland, Oregon.

Back to Issue