Poetry Suite by Zoe Canner

Editor Sam Preminger, Poetry, November 5th, 2018

"My body / is under attack"


Poetry by Zoe Canner

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my body is a temple


my body is a charleston

church. my body is a


pittsburgh synagogue.


my body is an oak creek

sikh temple / mistaken


for a mosque. my body

is under attack. from


the inside. please stop


killing the souls. inside

my only house.


i don’t know how many


temple blows this

body can endure

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spring baby

for Mireille Knoll


the best passovers happened when the magnolia tree in the yard was full

bloom to welcome our many guests. the beauty arresting and short-lived,


a once a year, couple days’ event, just like our legendary seders –

a miracle when they overlapped.


the whole tree always burst into bloom at once. and the very

next day the buds would begin their drooping, weighing

down the branches and then papering the yard everywhere.


but it was the softly sweet, somehow gravity-challenging fragrance,

hanging in the newly humid air like fine musk, and the feel


of the many silky slippery petals against the winter-raw skin of my bare

feet and face and shoulders that sang to my sleepy endangered-child soul.


my dad spoke slowly, calmly, quietly, but seriously, i was four

and full of giddy bliss whenever my parents or older brother


spent time in my room – it always felt like a guest star was visiting

my tv show, the room shrinking in response to their anomalous presence.


listen, he said, there are always more people who hate jews than the number

of jews who are alive. at every point in time.


you must understand this.


and also. there are always more people who don’t hate

jews than people who hate jews.


you must understand the danger. and you must understand

there are always fewer people with hate in their hearts

in this gigantic breathtaking world that we both adore.


i don’t have hate in my heart. my heart is slippery with time

and bruised, plump with relentless hope.


all of our bests and all of our worsts go

so fast, so fast

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what we do to animals


florence killed millions &millions of

chickens / what we do / my secret


confession / knee-deep in wood-chips / i never

connected with animals / but always knew / like


right / like rain / they have souls / i became

a vegetarian at age ten / &been one since


because i am not comfortable with the indignity

of eating someone / but eat away / go ahead / i’m


not here to judge or proselytize / not here

to feel comfortable naming animals / not


keeping them as pets / i believe in the food

chain / or something / but millions of millions


of chickens drowned in a hurricane / boggles

the / tickles the / tricks the / shivers the / hurts


the / oh / for every of the / million chicken

souls / &i don’t know much / but i do know


that i was a pig in a past life / so don’t even

get me started on the thousands of pigs


killed / cold / alone / wet / confused / in this

hurricane / i don’t like this / i don’t like any


of this / when my dad was seventeen / he worked

on a farm / was in charge of the chickens / he left


the water on / by accident one night &the next

day saw that he had drowned all the chickens /


all two hundred / or so / chickens / he was so

mortified / so upset / he refused to ever work


with animals again / my whole life he was

haunted by those chickens / my dad would


say / ugh, get away from me / to friendly


dogs who came to sniff around / why do they

like me i’m no good, no good / he’d mutter /


a swell of discolored contaminated water filled

with rotting animal carcasses can trick the eye /


some believed they were seeing a new kind


of algae / some thought they were looking at

thousands of beautiful dresses lost at sea

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twelve years of here / there days on repeat



autumnal tundra / florescent suction / blows

change / the bad kind / dithering diligent


daughter descends to knees / nieces pieces to


please / east coast me me me / pulling

muscles from a shell / father farther health


failing / further father hell / i’m letting you go


/ it’s okay you can go now / go go / hard to let

go / heaping praise migraines me for days /


illness is no ones fault-line crack / press your


feet hard zo into my lower back / just soothe

bed-pains / blinding light too much / brother


can’t do it never ever could / made of wood /


keep my hands close memories closer / keep

your moth shop tended if you want to be a


poster girl for bystander intervention / once


twice / every time / nothing could ever be

enough good to balance out grapefruit


hate-stained moment / twenty-first century is


for tears / kerosene flicker in here out there

quicker / sicker and sicker / let go let go


directive / mmmm kind of mom not mom


ever-mom mess / nearing g-w-b speed-bump

early morning sounds smells arrest / opening


a heart is only good with a wrench / a potholder


time friction grip hot-handle / deface

all sick hick signs / all the hick time / hick


crime / in thick hick pine / my problems are


plenty / just getting {myles voiced} stahted /

this kind of arrogant prick presumes to know


when it’s time for others to die / it’s okay /


you can let go / when i hear of other quaint

death moments / honey cried out to momhon


/ don’t die don’t leave don’t go / i admire and


feel like a clinical cold fish / it was his time /

all of the organs of his body were going /


fifty-three so young / easing transitions


my namesake guess / rain / welcome rain /

welcome / hue here and saturated there / toast


to every time holocaust surviving grandparents


outlive their son / granddaughter hugs herself

with brain pain and heartache fissure / under


these ugly wet boots is ugly wet news / veiny


tuesday drum to foolsday / i’m thinking in this

position / what’s the matter wednesday / sick


to say / let’s all die before next week / excuses


ex we cis exit okayness / you say this / yelling

/ hey miss / last words / zoe zoe zo zo zoezo / i


don’t know where zoe is / before consciousness


closed the door / thirty-four hours later / just

us / my dad kindred spirit fierce-love critical


devotion guide and / little me / in a crushing


doom room ICU cocoon / blooming heart /

slows blooming down / to blooming zero

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hey, western chauvinist


please be gentle

with me

if you

want to

not get picked

on i want to

not get


off i



what me


love trials

wicked raw



do we love

similar things

is obsession

a kind of


hate is an


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whenever someone says


there’s an active shooter

in pittsburgh at a


synagogue / my


stomach drops out of

my body &i lose it


somewhere on the trail


i’m out here in the

green,  my courtyard


still lush &often


damp with dew, please

don’t murder me just


because i am a jew

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Header image courtesy of Robert Monaghan. To view his Photo Essay, go here.

Zoe Canner is an angry, anti-racist, 3rd Generation Holocaust Survivor. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in SUSAN / The Journal, Naugatuck River Review,The Laurel Review, Arcturus of the Chicago Review of Books, Storm Cellar, Maudlin House, Occulum, Pouch, Indolent Books’ What Rough Beast, and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles where she indulges in hilly walks at dusk when the night-blooming jasmine is at its peak fragrance.


Sam Preminger

Sam Preminger is a Portland-based poet. Their work has appeared throughout various publications and they hold an MFA from Pacific University.