SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

Magnetic resonance imaging, Kirkland, 2012//Migraine, St. Paul, 2018

through the blue behind my eyelids,

i reach for all of it—

the hill of ivy fat with wolf spiders and sow bugs

hollow bones thinning under the cedar

raccoons washing their fingers of fish

at the water’s edge.

spooning the thin lines between things into my wet mouth

and spooling them haphazard around my teeth,

making a golden net of my throat—

i must have turned my brain into this mess:

purple an octopus’ cheek and also

a bruising scar from falling along the creek

not duplicated, just

synapsed in some misfiring imagination

they won’t catch on the heavy films.

in st. paul, the tiger lilies begin to bloom. i imagine instead

the alevin’s yolked throat  

oyster mushroom squatting against a nurse log’s back,

slick and dark with rain

nasturtiums crowded thick along the estuary’s stink

the quickest short circuit nostalgia buzzes

and winter crawls out of me in a silvered run

sharpens itself at the back of my skull.

once, i picked a tongue-pink petal

from a rhododendron and touched it to my own—

i was always growing where i shouldn’t

thickening the string between each disparate thing, like

my knee a facsimile of st. helens’ shuffled summit

making me ≥ a mountain—

and in this tube, my stomach green as lake light

still incubates, seasonlessly, the flat leaves

lying in wait for the right flower

or the most poignant tongue

or the good brain

whichever the pain can invent first.

here and back then, i have the most golden throat

where all the places are one place in the swallow.

they won’t see it in the reading,

the light made up of so many knotted strings so as to build the hottest sun

ruining the images like too much hell—


i exist in an overactive hemisphere

i do feel the suboccipital light, a daybreak.


it’s just not right here, although my blue fingers always reach

even as i lie metal-less and still.

Clair Dunlap grew up just outside Seattle, Washington, and started writing poems at the age of six. She is the author of In the Plum Dark Belly (Beard Poetry, 2016) and her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, L'Éphémère Review, Hobart, Peach Mag, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Occulum, Noble / Gas Qtrly, and more. She currently lives in the Midwest and answers research questions in an academic library.

Chicago Poem

The Whale