TWI Emerging Poet: Whitney Roberts Hill



Siddhartha Gautama was born from his mother’s side.

In lean times, plants so split.

The pup of a new one tucked

like a hexadactyly under her petal skirts.

The seeds that are made of one woman alone

in the desert; no bees, no man. 

Just a copy of her own genes. 

Just a chance to begin life again,

undamaged, inexperienced. 

Who would take such passage?

Gamble that the next adolescence would be less painful,

that the arc of history will continue to bend,

the pay gap close a little more. 

Women free-bleed and free-birth and free-feed

in the streets of the new you’s adulthood.




One day black walnut trees

will break my heart. They do already 

remind me of you, Daddy. 


I saved an article 

about what makes a predator:

every man starts in 

boyhood but then

I didn’t read it

I deleted it (by mistake)

and can’t find it again.


The boy from the new family on our block 

wears a blue coat to play 

in the alley as though the alley

is not a street.

Inside my car, I see the mother’s furrowed brow, 

her hand outstretched against his chest

to hold him back.


Somewhere else I learned: The Myth

of The Good Man is hurting men. 

(What is it that we mothers and daughters

are meant to do before 

it’s too late?) 


The trees are dark 

and swaying. The boy waves. 



She will look for the baby all night.

She will ask if we have any children 

to get ready 

for school in the morning. If the boys 

have gone home. She will tell you 

the apartment is not hers. It 

belongs to her dead, 

now un-dead, brother; later, to an unnamable 

friend. She will say that they have taken away 

half of her 

house. The units are mobile and recombined 

at will. She will say that she 

loves you.

That she wants you to visit again soon.

She will explain how she reaches for you 

across the cool plane of night:

little girl, asleep 

on the other side. 



The lining of my womb thickens while

the lining between the world and me thins.


I am air, now, a sponge multiplying herself 

on the seafloor, spores currented back and away,


I am a crescent moon whisper thin,

that baby born without a rib cage,


a fluttery organ under papery skin.

The movement of me is trackable to the world.


The veil is thin. I know what the tree feels 

the moment before her leaf drops. 



I woke up in my grandmother’s body.

I woke up with her pain like a cat


purring across my throat.

I woke up haunted,


carrying saddlebags of grief and fear:

cloaks her memory throws over me. There’s


a roaring inside my ears collected 

from the shells she held for me to hear


how many oceans lie within. My breath 

as deathly still as the wind 


in my earliest memory: her body 

was my shield, beyond the windowpane a battlefield 


of broken branches. The earth keened 

all night into the yellow sky.


Now, she whispers. This 

is the Eye


Girl, Age Seven


a red swimsuit cutting blue water

body a long obedient rope

hair swirling

swinging hips 

delight in them

it has taken me years to recover!

rage at your 


teach you nothing!

insist that you soften 

your voice 

give to your brother



take up the space of yourself 

in the world! trying 

to make an echo 

you will hear all your life



I’m not learning fast enough


to be kind 

Whitney Roberts Hill is an MFA candidate at Queens University of Charlotte where she is working on an autofiction novel, Leda. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction has appeared in Streetlight Magazine, Life in 10 Minutes, Nanny Magazine, The Mighty, Jars of Wine, and more. She is a reviewer for the American Book Review, and a former editorial assistant at Qu Literary Magazine. Whitney is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology Unspeakable: Stories of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Stillbirth, from L10 Press. Whitney lives in Richmond, Virginia. She is at






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