Light Iris

When visiting your mother and her wife
at their house, the last on a Maine road bound
to the edge of a cliff, a sandy expanse stretching 
below wide-open gleaming glass windows,
we slept in the basement bedroom, under the pink 
scalloped sheets and walls of framed female nudes, 
your hand pressed over my mouth, my eyes moving
between the illustrated breasts and yours. 
In the morning, as the ocean air licked the living 
room furniture and dark, salt-stained curtains 
floated freely over the kitchen table, my bare feet 
smooth on the whitewashed and worn brick floor,
I snuck into their bedroom, a skylight illuminating
the quilted queen bed, high-posted and bloated 
with sham pillows, where the open-faced white 
flower of an O’Keeffe painting returned my gaze.

Carling McManus (she/they) is a queer poet living in Appalachia. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Best New Poets, Pleiades, Meridian, and the Beloit Poetry Journal. She has received fellowships, scholarships, and awards from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Rona Jaffe Foundation, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the National Poetry Society, Pigeon Pages, Frontier Poetry, and Carve Magazine. A survivor of conversion therapy, she is an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ civil rights. Carling lives on a mountainside with her wife and two border collies in Mink Shoals, West Virginia. Find more of her work at