Poetry Spotlight #11: Lynn Melnick 1

Poetry Spotlight #11: Lynn Melnick

One of the most enriching, forward-thinking, fastest-growing online creative communities flourishing right now is the Poetry community, especially in those scenes that center on marginalized voices — Women, POC, Neurodivergent, and LGBTQ. Poetry Spotlight is a feature aiming to showcase the work of some of the most talented creators we’ve discovered making waves on the Internet literary circles, inside or outside the mainstream. Our eleventh installment is dedicated to the poetry of Lynn Melnick.


Lynn is the author of Landscape with Sex and Violence (YesYes Books, 2017) and If I Should Say I Have Hope (YesYes Books, 2012), and the co-editor of Please Excuse This Poem: 100 Poets for the Next Generation (Viking, 2015). Her poetry has appeared in APR, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, A Public Space, and elsewhere, and she has written essays and book reviews for Boston Review, LA Review of Books, and Poetry Daily, among others. A 2017-2018 fellow at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, she also teaches poetry at the 92Y and serves on the Executive Board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Born in Indianapolis, she grew up in Los Angeles and currently lives in Brooklyn. 

Landscape with Stucco and Dandelion


20th century, libertines peer from frosted glass

because they want to learn how I triumph, so


I am going to confess this once


    and then I am going to confess it again


in different ways I won’t admit to but never mind.

This won’t be the last time


    I let the riffraff envenom my body


while they pretend to be heroic.

This won’t be the first time I faint against a building


where the weeds escape the cracks

into some kind of suffocating, mangled abandon.


Slumped against the sunlit stucco

I fail to keep my wits about me in a choke of triggers.


I down this dandelion poison because the promise

pitches a floral danger I could live inside.


I didn’t emerge well-trained into this savage vista

because all the houseplants were succulent, and,


while anyone could witness rot writ all over my blighted arrangement,


    no one stepped in.



Landscape with Wonder and Blowback


If I’m not a trinket I blend into concrete


so I rip my denim and bring enough musk to the car lot

to call it a cathouse.


The men are busy.

I stand quiet until they are busy


about me.


The bleak sun brightens on cement, sliding


into a feed ramp, no trigger guard

and you know how chatter happens


quickly among the gathering crowd.


    Dude, not a cloud in the sky!  


Onlookers wonder how hard I fuck on gravel.




    I am the notched, cocking handle of any of your guns;

    no one can safely touch me.


Everybody in my memory is young now.

Everybody in my memory is old though.


That’s the blowback where my loose heart will fire.


Landscape with Greyhound and Greasewood


Mostly men keep singing

while dark blood collects where I open


and I line my polka dot panties with rest stop receipts.


I think probably we’ll pause in Barstow to continue

these lyrics


but I’m no standard:


I fold over to smell myself.


Route 66 to Las Vegas.

Perfect for a child and also America


loves the promise of a long haul.


I pull the tab from a small can of apple juice:



I’m cared for.

The man next to me puts his hand on my thigh.


He gets the kind of girl I am,

new leaves shiny with oil, flammable.


Come on.


Know better. Somebody,

know better.


Landscape with Loanword and Solstice


Say yes

so I let him run me to the limits


in a pickup though I know better

than to expect


the chaparral

to grow much through trauma


except in order to withstand



though it appears

under the smog




CUT TO: he shoves my face

into the flatbed then punts me


when he’s filled me.

Walk home and I do,


scrub for miles

the darkest day of the year moving in


and out of comprehension

but I am glad


(hear me? I am glad)

because now it can be over.


Landscape with Written Statement


You wrap my ribs in gauze —

an experiment with the word tenderly


after your hands left my throat too bruised to speak.


While winter sun squints at the ghost flower

dying in its shabby terracotta


far from home


men tell me to be honest about my role in the incident:


Okay, yes

I should have stayed inside


while you railed from the sidewalk


but my confused heart got into the car.


What happened is

I once spent too much time in the desert


so pogonip seems glamorous hung stuck in the trees

like when blood dries on skin


and I want to wear it


out for an evening,

pat my hands over its kinky path down my face


because: fuck you,


you didn’t find me here.

I brought you here.


Landscape with Sex and Violence


Consider this canvas of central valley splendor

    dull as the usual set of sucker punches—his distinctive


suggestion for a rainy day. I was crushed over sundry

    wonders of our topography.


Depraved though I was about my body

    I hated washing blood from my hair.


There is little I am good at.                                   


I am good at sitting. That entire winter

    I sat outside in a town with too much earth


and I counted whorls slowly

    but I kept on with it, my pointless obsession, even though


I couldn’t splay my sentences


damp into dark. I tried to detonate my body

    differently than he did. But then


came the sirens and then came the paperwork.

    Betrayed me: Hills of snails.


Behind me: How blood sticks to hair.

    Panorama: There is little I am good for.


Landscape with Rum and Implosion


You should have seen my breasts inside a dress so extravagant


it was rogue among a decade

of the type of electric horticulture


all these bittersweet groves were founded on so

yeah, I traded it right off my body


for a bottle of rum on the cleanest, brightest street corner

I didn’t think to guard my skin against because


I’m in love with a woman who doesn’t appeal to me.


Turn on the television and all you hear

is the new way of speaking


asked and answered


or the old new way of speaking now that everyone’s doing it.


Am I happy about it? No.


I adapt to the manifold balconies of California

as a symbol of liberation


like the sophisticate I’m not

when no matter how many rails


we could finish from the railing

or the viewshed of a whole city against the neon of a floozy motel


I am only ever trapped inside


my own fixed vantage point or else I am



imploding, such as it does.



Some Ideas for Existing in Public


I think you should grip your dick through your jeans and ask me


if I can handle it because you know I can, right?

I’m here for you.


I think you should overtake me at a bus bench

and invite me to sit on your face.


I think you should track me down

the block and clarify how you’d like to split my slit open


until I pass out.


(Once, as a kid, I was balancing on a ledge

all morning thinking no one


could see me until a man walked by and captured my chin in his grip

and called me pretty.)


I think you should screw me sideways right here on the sidewalk

like you said you might like to screw me


sideways before you took off

past the cop who said it’s pointless to prove the crime so


come on, sure, screw me sideways, and why just sideways

why not all ways? Why not diagonal?


I think you should whistle so loud at my fat ass

that I jump like a stray rodent and you couldn’t be more correct


it is a shame my fat ass is walking away


from you because why is it walking away from you?

Why am I walking away from you? Why am I here on the sidewalk?


I’m yours.


Landscape with Thesaurus and Awe



There are 24 synonyms for the word envy.

And although one of them is hatred and one of them is lusting


no one envies me.


If I could just make it to morning without selling myself


one day I might have some land

beyond the ficus pot


whose heart leaves leak their poison

inside this slummy garage


where I sleep daytimes

in a city I’m sure I’ve mentioned before.


I am furious for answers

inside the book of words I stole from a stranger’s back pocket.


You see, through the years when everyone is dying

I remain clean.


That’s why I believe there could be a God.


There are 5 synonyms for the word redemption.

and 46 for fear.


One of them is chickenheartedness

and another is awe and


only my body is for sale.



Landscape with Clinic and Oracle



Maybe you’re not the featherweight champ

of all the cutthroat combat sports


(fifteen and pregnant



but you’d convert your ring corner

into a slaughterhouse


before you’d inquire after human kindness.


In the humdrum flare outside the clinic

you wait for a ride, feel the spill at the tipping point


trickle down your inner thigh

as you bask in the post-industrial particulate


on your skin, ash

into a jasmine pot’s bituminous anchorage


so tacky it glows in a habitat that spent your body

long before it finished growing.



    Lynn! they lied to you


don’t you know?

Your womb will be the first thing to heal.


What you smell is pleasure, not the rot of the thing

amid the waste.


You will have babies.

You will write poems about flowers that turn on in darkness.

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