KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 12: Summer 2019
Review: 1,035 words [R]

Three Poets From Press 53: Shivani Mehta, Kathleen McGookey, and Leona Sevick

by Nin Andrews

Every now and then I wake up in serious need of a poetry fix. I feel a kind of angst, as if I don’t quite fit in my skin. Maybe I’ve had bad dreams, or worse, the same old worry-dreams I’ve had for years. Or maybe I’m just tired—tired of the news, the weather, my own mind and spirit. I want something refreshing, something to wake me up, to make my day a little brighter.

I start looking for a poem, or a collection of poems, by poets I haven’t seen or heard enough from yet. Poets like Jamey Dunham—I’ve been waiting for a long time for his second book of poems. Or like Shivani Mehta, who blew me away with her first collection, Useful Information for the Soon-to-be Beheaded. Who could resist a book with a title like that? Or Kathleen McGookey, whose precise and breath-taking poems enchant me again and again. Or my latest discovery, Leona Sevick, whose insights and sly wit catch me off guard.

Three of these poets have been published by Press 53, so I thought I’d post a poem by each of these women, though I should warn you, one poem is not enough to display the depth of their magic. Still, I think it might inspire readers to run out and find more of their work.

First, a poem published by PoetsArtists from Shivani Mehta whose recent poems are haunting and other-worldly.

When we were exiles my mother wrapped me in paper bags for warmth, carried me on her back as she walked for miles. Our shadows on the ground were one body, everything I saw was framed by her long black hair. Sometimes we stopped in villages for shelter, never stayed for more than a night. We weren’t searching for anything holy, just a place where we could uncurl our fists. My mother told me I was born with the map on my back. I remember how, when we were lost, she used it to orient herself, her coarsened fingers undoing the buttons of my dress, smoothing the cloth from my shoulders, cities and towns asleep under her fingers. Once she said, your spine is the river, each vertebra is a path we could take.

Next, from Kathleen McGookey, a poem published by KYSO Flash. I love her surreal wit and sensibility.

Months later, when my husband finally scratched my bare back, the itchy center part I couldn’t reach, tiny sugar ants streamed out, then carpenter ants and termites, crickets and earwigs and millipedes, then silverfish, furry disoriented bumblebees, a few fireflies, green grasshoppers, and moths with large eyes glaring from their wings. He leapt out of bed to scoop them into glass jars with metal lids and line them up on the headboard. The snakes settled into the bathtub, its candlelit waters still smelling of vanilla and blood orange, little waves lapping the sides. In Sharpie, he catalogued his find by genus and species on the back of his hand and forearm. I missed the electricity of all those wings inside my skin. This will never teach him, I thought.

And finally, from Leona Sevick, a poem from her book, Lion Brothers, which has me convinced that all I really need in order to solve my problems is “a fucking pot.”

First, get yourself a good cast iron pot. Don’t skimp.
You know what kind; you see them everywhere
and think Who would pay that much for a fucking pot?
You will. Go to every Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and
Home Goods in a hundred mile radius, and maybe
you’ll get lucky and find an odd colored one—
mustard yellow or baby shit brown—marked way down
because some people only care about how these things
look, not what they do. My aunt’s like this.
Had a pantry full of every kind—grill pan, Dutch oven,
braiser, you name it. I don’t think her manicured hand,
always holding a Virginia Slim, ever touched one.
Even if you don’t find one cheap, get one.
Steal it if you have to. I won’t judge.

Once you get your pot, you’ll know why you have it.
This pot can do anything and perfectly, every time.
Fancy a fry up? You have your pot. Need a twenty minute
cry? You’ll have a perfect risotto when it’s over.
Want to make grand statements with a heavy thud
while you’re tidying up? Turn to your pot. Soak it
for longer than 30 minutes and you’ll be able
to wipe whatever’s stuck to it free with a soft sponge.
No need for a man to provide elbow grease.

In old pictures of refugees, the ones that show women
with their bundles tied tight with string, there is always
a pot balanced on top of their precious possessions.
You’ll never wonder again what it means.


Shivani Mehta’s work has appeared in numerous journals and her full-length book of poetry, Useful Information for the Soon-to-be Beheaded, is out from Press 53. Born in Mumbai, raised in Singapore, Shivani lives near Los Angeles with her family.

Kathleen McGookey’s fourth book of prose poems, Instructions for My Imposter, is forthcoming from Press 53. Her chapbook Nineteen Letters is forthcoming from BatCat Press. Her work has appeared in journals including Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Epoch, Field, Indiana Review, Ploughshares, The Prose Poem: An International Journal, Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, Rhino, Seneca Review, and West Branch. She has published three other books of poems, two chapbooks, and We’ll See, translations of French poet Georges Godeau’s prose poems. She lives in Middleville, Michigan, with her family.

Leona Sevick’s work appears in The Journal, Crab Orchard Review, The Normal School, The Southeast Review, The Arkansas International, and elsewhere. Her work also appears in The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks. She is the 2017 Press 53 Poetry Award Winner for her first full-length book of poems, Lion Brothers. Sevick was named a Tennessee Williams Scholar for the 2018 Sewanee Writers’ Conference and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She teaches Asian American literature at Bridgewater College, and she can be reached at:

—Published previously in the Best American Poetry blog (16 April 2019); appears here with author’s permission.

Nin Andrews
Issue 12, Summer 2019

is the author of six chapbooks and six full-length poetry collections, including Why God Is a Woman which was published in 2015 by BOA Editions. Her work has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies including Ploughshares, Agni, The Paris Review, and four editions of Best American Poetry. She has won two Ohio individual artist grants, the Pearl Chapbook Contest, the Kent State University chapbook contest, and the Gerald Cable Poetry Award. She is also the editor of a book of translations of the Belgian poet, Henri Michaux, Someone Wants to Steal My Name.

Author’s website:

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