'Swap Shop #3'
photo by Samantha Malay, Seattle, Washington, 1999

Ruston, 1972
by Samantha Malay
published by TINGE Magazine, May 2021

Ruston, 1972

forty-three feet above sea level
on a landfill peninsula
shaped by sediment and slag
a copper-smelting smokestack
melted nylon stockings
off backyard laundry lines

a mile away
seahorses curled
in tidal pools
we sat on old bath towels
creosote and kelp
our backs to the waves

'House #3'
photo by Samantha Malay, Tucson, Arizona, 1990

by Samantha Malay
published by In Parentheses, February 2021

under the porch
shoulder blades scrape
where light slats through
to roots and dry dirt
a tarpaper nail
opaline insect shells
pull the bandage aside
we are stitched together

frost covers grass
trees disappear
in early night

we halve the distance
follow luck like ruts down the mountain

photo by Samantha Malay, Seattle, Washington, 2020

by Samantha Malay
published in Shark Reef – A Literary Magazine, issue 37, winter 2021


lack of a plan felt like reason enough
to follow half-truths as if they were favors
sandwiches assembled on a plywood scrap
by whoever sat in the passenger seat

and sort the belongings of the recently dead
in a mobile home park outside San Bernardino
cactus in gravel at the edge of the road
TV too close to the couch

what I can claim is what I remember
crossing the border with pink paper flowers
streets with names like cowboy songs
ice on the floor in Victorville
the ocean only a shape on a map

photo by Samantha Malay, Tucson, Arizona, 1990

Forest Service Map
by Samantha Malay
published in Ponder Review, volume 4, issue 2

in golden green creekbend shade
arms uncouple from sleeves
ankles and feet push silt

hold branches aside
up the slope to the road
where heat still shimmers off the hood of the truck
and the sky is white
between black trees

a moth in the rafters
the contour of absence
flowers pressed in unread books

'Parking Lot #3'
photo by Samantha Malay, Tucson, Arizona, 1990

by Samantha Malay
published in Ponder Review, volume 4, issue 2

we kneeled
in pitch-stained jeans
on pine needles
tiny bones
and porcupine quills
to measure the distance
by the sound of our voices
between burn barrel sparks
and when we would leave
in numbers reduced
by the shape of the mountain
broken bootlaces
and songs we forgot
to an address written on a bus station paperback
and a road that led away from the trees

'Parking Lot #7'
photo by Samantha Malay, Seattle, Washington, 1990

by Samantha Malay
published in Qwerty Magazine, issue 42

untangle words from the kitchen phone
around kids eating toast in their swimsuits
macaroni salad in a margarine tub
pale grass where the hose was coiled

count the cuts to open a can
with a keychain P-38
thistle seeds on windshield dust
a duffel bag on the passenger seat

'Parking Lot #9'
photo by Samantha Malay, Long Beach, Washington, 1989

by Samantha Malay
published in The Very Edge: Poems (Flying Ketchup Press 2020)
ISBN-13: 978-1-970151-23-7

you can stand in the doorway to look at the night
and pray against a family fate
of muddy yards and porch pianos

seek comfort in upkeep
wasps beyond the ladder’s reach
a sliver of soap on the edge of the sink
the glitter of glass shards beneath a broom

picture yourself covered in leaves
pockets emptied of matchbooks and coins
limbs no longer hinged for gait
far from the grasp of hasty plans

'Oxbow Inn #1'
photo by Samantha Malay, Seattle, Washington, 1991

by Samantha Malay
published in The Closed Eye Open, June 2020

Loose ends, my brother and sister and I emerged from tree-canopy and Oregon rain to stay in a noisy house in Kettle Falls. We’d lived without faucets or refrigerators but knew the names of many plants and how to detect thunder on the horizon.

The three of us ate grocery store chicken and bean salad on a TV tray and watched shows we’d never seen before, tight polyester pants and laugh tracks and deodorant ads. The livingroom was separated from the murky kitchen by a grey metal tool shelf cluttered with jars of root-water spider plants and dust. Pans sat abandoned in the sink, a greasy dishtowel shoved through the oven handle. Stacks of mail crowded car keys and a pair of nail clippers on the counter. Joke books floundered on the toilet tank. The sprinkler ran until the lawn was a swamp. At first it felt like a dangerous vacation.

Across the street from a cemetery, 665 Kalmia Street was full of belongings and furniture in uncomfortable relationships, as if people had moved in and weren’t finished unpacking, or were just about to move out. Mom lived there with her boyfriend Jerry and his two sons, Tom and Bruce, high school seniors, a grade skipped or failed by one or the other, who couldn’t have resembled each other less if they’d been unrelated. Bruce had frizzy hair like his girlfriend. Barely six years older, they looked at me from the land of adults, where candlewax covered nightstands and albums were stacked against walls. Ashtrays were filled, bottles were emptied, then slowly filled again with discarded coins.

Sheila slept on a window seat near the wall phone under paper curtains printed with blue and purple hydrangeas. I had the floor of the broom closet off the kitchen. Maybe Ben got the couch. We kept our clothes in a cardboard box.

My new classmates incubated chicken eggs. We broke the shell of the unhatched one, saw a fully-formed creature, wet feathers, closed eyes, feet and legs curled.

On the last day of school, water balloons soaked our shirts and jeans. I sat on a log with my friends at the edge of the playground, where the field met the parking lot. I wrote letters to them that summer, when we returned to the cabin. I tried to feather my hair in the reflection on the porch window, but it had grown too long, so I went back to barrettes.

Our family unraveled, in time measured in maps and missing report cards and not enough money for stamps.

'Trailer #1'
photo by Samantha Malay, on the way to Onion Creek, Washington, 1990

by Samantha Malay
published in Shark Reef – A Literary Magazine, issue 36, summer 2020


trespass quietly
to smell the end of summer
in the sundown trees
and lunchbox rust
an uneven history
of bee-stings and scorch
branches broken to fit in the stove
dirt from other towns still on our shoes