Derek Mong

In the Land Between Sex and Conception

there are no trees, save
the shadows of trees, and words

that roll their shadows to root.
Whatever line will divide

the earth from the sky
hasn’t yet squinted its sight

down the globe. The wind lulls
in translucent coils

but unrolls to release all the birds.
The beasts nest in their own

thought balloons. And you—​
unborn notion, no skin

yet to float on—do you lounge
here near oceans still learning

to pool? Or are you dispersed
like so many concertgoers

awaiting the music’s faint cry?
It will come, it will come

to where the rivers now run
like dreams in the grooves of a knife.

Derek Mong is the author of two collections from Saturnalia Books, Other Romes (2011) and The Identity Thief (forthcoming, 2018), and the poetry editor at Mantis: A Journal of Poetry, Criticism, & Translation. He recently completed a PhD at Stanford University, writing on marriage in the lives and afterlives of Whitman and Dickinson. A former Axton Poetry Fellow at the University of Louisville and Halls Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, he now lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and son. He has received the Editors’ Choice Prize from the Missouri Review and two Hopwood Awards. New poetry, criticism, and translations have appeared (or will soon appear) in the Kenyon Review, Poetry Northwest, Printer’s Devil Review, Laurel Review, Chariton Review, Lunch Ticket, and the Gettysburg Review. He can be reached at