Three Poems by Joey Connelly


The Violation and the Laughter

But the LORD said, Have you any right to be angry?   Jonah 4:4

At 21, I chose the wrong alley

in the wrong Southern city.

The barrel of the gun shone like aluminum foil,

reflecting distant street lights

and the pale fear of my temple.

The man with the gun laughed as the other took

what never occurred to me to give.

The violation or the laughter—


which was worse? What is forgiveness but a casket that will never

close? What is shame but a mirror over

a calm lake, reflections exchanged

to an unsteady infinity?


After, they took turns kicking

and then nothing.

I was left to crawl and bleed

out of the alley,

the belly of the whale.




I dream sometimes of a lighthouse guarding a silver sea.
Inside I am protected by tides

and deceptive undertow.

I more often dream that I stand outside,
waves of a thousand naked corpses
smashing face down on the stones.


I search for a blanket to cover them.

The lookout window torchlit

and I can’t find the door.


Worse are the dreams

where I stand on top of the light,

clothes bloodstained,


the sky a sheet of foil

and as the light revolves

I see my reflection from every angle,


in my hand a knife and at my feet

a bruised 21 year old.

I am Abraham and I am Isaac with no angel in sight.


On the hardest nights, elements combine,

nightmarish variation on a nightmare theme.

I look down and see the dead.


I look up to see only myself in the mirrored sky

and I must either stare into my own eyes and see the blood-splattered knife

or turn away to face the darkness


behind darkness

and darkness

beyond still.


Not All Canaries are in Coal Mines


The chicken coop when the dog broke in,

the police siren outside

a neighbor’s house.

The haunted farmhouse that the rain rotted

leaving only skeletons of porches,

abandoned clothes lines.

This is the executioner’s wife.

This is the executed’s son.

The stray who birthed her kittens

in the small town Lowe’s.

The bully after the suicide.

The bridge the bullied jumped from.

The water that received and carried him

upset by passing barges.

This bank, this absence that lets the water in.

The tub for the blood to spill

and the sink for the meat to blanche in.


Joey Connelly is the Assistant Professor of English at Kentucky Wesleyan College. His work has appeared in New Plains Review, PANK, Queer South Anthology, St. Sebastian Review, Southern Humanities Review, and other publications. His chapbook, Velocity of Slugs, was published by Etchings Press in 2015.