by Devi Xi; for more information, visit

by Devi Xi; for more information, visit

L’Esprit de l’Escalier

by Kristina McDonald

Your hands stay planted at your side
like flagpoles and still, the teacher
calls on you. Lips part and your throat
fills with air. You’re five years old,
you’re ten, you’re twenty and the tongue
can make a hundred sounds and emptiness
is one of them. Your larynx is a tunnel,
a jungle you grew up in. And somewhere
in the center, the great snake of your silences.
See how the tree branch bends from her weight,
how she’s grown fat from the words
you’ve swallowed. Oh how she aches
to stretch out her jaw. She’s ready
to tell you everything. Ask a question
and see how wide she will open her mouth.


About Kristina McDonald

Kristina McDonald received her MFA from Eastern Washington University, where she was the poetry editor of Willow Springs. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Narrative, New Guard Review, Yemassee, Sugar House Review, Switchback, and Sixfold. She has worked for literary non-profits Writers in the Schools and Get Lit! Programs, and she currently works at Rice University.