Origin Stories – Nancy Botkin

Origin Stories for May
    by Nancy Botkin

    I’m down on my knees
    scraping paint off 

    the floor with my thumbnail, 
    washing my hands
    over and over, but it’s like trying

    to get blunt force trauma
    and strangulation out of the news.

    I went back and forth between Icelandic 
    and Moonmist,
    colors suggesting cool and distant,
    colors with blue 

    undertones. I peer through the vertical slats
    at a slab of November sky, dark and bruised,

    but what a lovely idea the leaves have of 
    striking gold,
    catching fire,
    flaring red. 

    It makes
    cleaning them up less of a chore, 
    but what do you do with a body? 
    What to do with a baby 

    who cries and cries? 

    Here’s one idea: take her 
    to the thigh-high weeds
    and bury her under an ivory moon,
    always so indifferent to bare arms
    and the nape of a neck.

    One by one, I held square samples 
    against the wall
    which produced a false reading

    like a faint pulse
    or the moon behind clouds,

    and what does a baby girl do in the afterlife?

    Here’s one dream:
    the dirt takes her apart, takes away 
    every color that made her human,
    but she undoes the gray buttons, the brown 
    blood fades, and she floats into a room 
    that holds its champagne promise,

    unaffected by morning
    light or evening light, 
    or lamplight,
    or candlelight. 

    Or time.

    I’m grounded here for days,
    the paint hardening on the brush,

    and I hold a swath of sky in my mind,
    the pink one, reminding me 

    of feverish skin, blush,

    cooing, and silent laughter.

    *Originally published in december and a semi-finalist for the 2022 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize

Origin Stories – Icelandic

“Icelandic” began to take shape as I was preparing to paint the living room, my hands busy with color strips. Around that time, there was a horrific story in the local news about an 11-month-old girl who was found in a shallow grave, murdered by a man who was caring for her for a couple days. In a fit of rage, he struck her. Panicked, he drove her to an isolated area, but soon broke down and led police to the body. In my mind, I was grappling with dichotomies: the beauty of nature, the horror of nature, the safety of interiors (home and family) but also the breakdown of those institutions. My heart broke for the girl, and I invented a kind of heaven for her at the end of the poem filled with soft colors and peace.


Nancy Botkin’s The Honeycomb won the 2022 Steel Toe Books chapbook prize and will be published in the Fall of 2023. Her full-length collection, The Next Infinity, was published by Broadstone Books in 2019.  She lives in South Bend, Indiana.

Gyroscope Review Spring 2023 Issue Now Available

Previous Origin Stories

April 1 – Wanda Praisner

April 2 – Howard Lieberman

April 3 – L. Shapley Bassen

April 4 – Sharon Scholl

April 5 – Stellasue Lee

April 6 – Jeanne DeLarm

April 7 – Virginia Smith

April 8 – Patricia Ware

April 9 – Mary Makofske

April 10 – Ann Wallace

April 11 – Jessica Purdy

April 12 – Lakshman Bulusu

April 13 – Kim Malinowski

April 14 – Anita Pulier

April 15 – Martha Bordwell

April 16 – Anastasia Walker

April 17 – Annette Sisson

April 18 – Shaheen Dil

April 19 – Claudia Reder

April 20 – Cathy Thwing

April 21 – Sarah Snyder

April 22 – Susan Barry-Schultz

April 23 – Laurie Kuntz

April 24 – Maryann Hurtt

April 25 – Yvonne Zipter

April 26 – Jess Parker

April 27thKelly Sargent

April 28thRobbi Nester

April 29thLaurie Rosen

April 30thJames Penha

May 1stOisin Breen

May 2ndJennifer Shomburg Kanke

May 3rdKaren Paul Holmes

May 4thJudy Kronenfeld

May 5thJulie Weiss

Previous NPM celebrations from Gyroscope Review

Let the Poet Speak! 2022

Promopalooza 2021

Poet of the Day 2020

Poets Read 2019

National Poetry Month Interview Series 2018

Book Links Party 2017

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