Wildlings, meet Catherine Garbinsky!

Our first feature poet for March is the talented Catherine Garbinsky!

Catherine Garbinsky is a writer living in Northern California. She holds a degree in The Poetics Of Transformation: Creative Writing. Religion, And Social Justice from the University of Redlands. Catherine is the author of a chapbook of Ursula Le Guin erasures, All Spells Are Strong Here (Ghost City Press, 2018). Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in Rag Queen Periodical, Fly Paper Magazine, Coffin Bell, Journal, and others.
Connect with Catherine on Twitter @mrsgrrrbinsky or visit her website catherinegarbinsky.tumblr.com

Catherine Garbinsky

Over the next week, we’ll be showcasing Catherine’s work, and engaging with her in an exploration of her craft through various lenses.

Today we’re introducing Catherine through the first two of a quartet of previously unpublished poems, selected by Catherine to make their debut in Animal Heart Press.


A bird is perched inside of my ribcage, one talon clinging to my bones.
Wings flutter in my chest like the wind has been knocked out of me,
like you just told me my uncle is dying
and I can’t speak for a moment.

My cat likes to squish between two cushions on the couch,
like she is being hugged, or like she’s hiding.
She used to run and hide when strangers came over, but now she’d rather stay
between the cushions. I guess this means she feels safe.

I don’t know what makes me feel safe.
Some people want to retreat to the mountains, I wanted the sea.
Salt in the air and a walk on the sand and along the wharf.
The sea lions lay beside one another, on top of one another, bickering and barking. Family.

I think maybe it’s a seagull in my chest,
and it’s scavenging for food because I am so hungry all of the time,
but my belly is starting to ache.
I don’t know it yet, but this is a symptom of something bigger.

When I visit, my uncle wants a milkshake,
he says he needs a milkshake right now, can’t wait,
and I remember when I visited my nana in the hospital
I made her a milkshake.
I think maybe milkshakes make us feel safe.

It’s the solstice, and my uncle loves Anna Akhmatova as much as I do, and he stays
(probably later than he should) just to talk with me.
And I know today is the longest day of the year but I wish it was longer,
I wish we could squish between the cushions, I wish we could walk beside the ocean,
I wish we could drink milkshakes and talk about Anna Akhmatova.

I wish I could rip this thing out of my chest because it hurts.


I reach a hand in and pull out my teeth,
plant them in the earth — little gravestones —
crush them down to dust,
sprinkle it in a circle around my body as if it were salt.
I burn the appeal denial letters,
cover my skin in the ash.
I speak the language
of automated telephone messages:
if you need to speak to a representative, press 0 now. 
I do not pull my hair out, I do not bite my lip until it bleeds.
I press the numbers as instructed,
chant the numbers under my breath.
There is no representative to speak to, there never was.
My aching body is trapped dancing to the hold music.