Poetry by MJ Stratton

Based on a Dream, by MJ STRATTON

I have a kink for cutting up credit cards.

I made a coffin

out of the visa with three sixes in the number

and then cut it up some more—it always

scared me. Sometimes I’m not sure

whether asking the devil to spare my soul

is the same as asking him to save it.

Sometimes I think I bury myself,

the sand so wet and heavy on my relic.

There is a dog running into the waves.

There is a child making a sandcastle

out of my stomach.

To my left, I see a couple

feeding the birds a pocket watch—

I feel the same ticking in my throat,

then a kiss,



Cover My Eyes and Guess Who (or Falling Apart at 2:11 am), by MJ STRATTON

She told me I was talented

and I told her sometimes I’m bleeding

and my blood isn’t any good. That’s the fear

anyway. Doubt with a hat on. Tell me you hear

it too. That humming

the silence makes when our bodies merge.

I have four limbs and one is missing.

I have snakes as teeth and a body

that only comes alive in the wet.

I’m all cacophony and rattles in a skin

numbed over. And over.

What am I?

all of it has teeth, 

chairs heaving in the darkness 

while mobiles spin, a raven 

reaper in the black

circling like blood down a drain.

my friend went to the beach at night

and found a dead pufferfish. i don’t think

there was any blood, only passion turning 

between the lips of the couple kissing over it.

now what a sendoff that would be, an orgy

on the grave and a stranger passing by

encumbered. so many of us out here bruising.

so many of us churning over cherry stem questions

with limp tongues. wondering gets tiring, doesn’t it?

i’m tired, anyway—sky swelling

with this existence we live in. tell me love

feels like the answer if that’s the word

for biting back. only it’s much more wounded

than that. it’s much more radiohead than that.

the writer can’t find the word.

“It’s much more wounded than that, it’s much more Radiohead than that”

*(Pete Holmes in a podcast with Dax Shepard).

How would one characterize M.J. Stratton? Student. Disturbingly pale. An [previously] unpublished poet who is twenty-three years old and “a woman now” but can’t get used to the sound of that. And human. So fucking human that she feels everything as deeply as you do—fiercely. Emphatically. She just writes it down.

                               Interview with Poet MJ Stratton

  1. How long have you been making art?
  2. Is art your full-time job? If not, what is?
  3. What inspired this work?
  4. What writers or artists inspire you and your work?
  5. Where can we find your recent or future work?

6. What would you advise those interested in seriously pursuing art?

1. I have been writing poetry since the third grade, but I never realized my need for it until three years ago.

2. I love writing and would love to have a full-time literary career one day. For right now, I am just a quirky student studying poetry as a major and writing poems while fully clothed in the bathtub at two a.m.

3. This work was inspired by an inner restlessness and a need to reach out and relate to others—to put into words a communal feeling. These two pieces, in particular, are impossible for me to really translate or describe other than to say this is what they are. This is what they mean. What Franz Kafka said sounds true to me: “I am constantly trying to communicate something incommunicable, to explain something inexplicable, to tell about something I only feel in my bones and which can only be experienced in those bones.”

4. God, so many! Kim Addonizio, Ada Limón, Stuart Dybek, Matthew Henriksen, Virginia Woolf, Maggie Nelson, Charles Bukowski, and Amy Newman are always on my mind.

5. This is my first publication. I am not sure when or where the next one will be, but I look forward to knowing the answer to this question someday in the future (fingers crossed).

6. I would just like to say, though I am not qualified to be giving advice by any means: Keep. Writing. When your inbox is sagging with rejection letters, it is hard not only to write, but it is a real struggle to feel as though you have anything worth saying. You do.