Published Poems

Selected published poems by Heather H. Thomas


Slit Silence

The shooting range marked Danger, No Trespassing,
            has a target made of old plates.

Shots disturb the birds, ricochet off the ridge,
            separating the air I run through.

In Sarajevo, she timed her run across the bridge
            —fifteen seconds between shots—

the leaves tender on trees not yet burned for fuel.
            Snipers ringing the hills eyed her, eyed

anyone walking home from work or buying bread.
            She counted the seconds on her watch before

running through slit silence, plate of the sun the only
            unbroken thing until she reached the other side.


Rita Dove Poetry Prize, International Literary Awards, Honorable Mention

Tanta International Festival of Poetry Anthology, Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Arabic translation by Fatima Tahir.

The Sunroom

            Wallace Stevens House, 323 N. Fifth St., Reading


            Her legs were shorter then. It’s a quick
climb now to the second-floor apartment.

Opening the door, she falls
into the Wedgewood jar of the living room,

            a blue world whose patterned white figures
freeze in their dance. Two steps up—

her parents’ bedroom—their turbulence
knocks the wind out of her.

            I turn and walk as if leaving a stage
Wallace Stevens descended in purple air

more truly and strange, the walls
sliced open by words, so she covers her ears.

            The air roars as a plane takes off,
rifling books on the shelves, tearing up paper lives,

rewriting history as snow blowing in
the same bare place between mind and sky,

            between sound and night.
This is why the poet is in the sun,

pointing her finger at the moon,
meeting her shadow in a book.

            I’m walking room to room with echo
clamor in summer heat.

A line of fire around drawn shades, smell
of burning metal, an overlooked pot,

            but no one has cooked in this kitchen for years.
She crosses the floor stenciled with sun.

I sit on a folding chair and feel the unraveling
in my veins. It’s always like this,

            the child not knowing what to do,
how to live. Light over Sixth Street rooftops

leads her down the fire escape to the sandbox
between brick walls until the radio draws her

            back up the iron stairway to the paints,
brush, paper Mother gave her, the glass of water,

the Chordettes singing. She paints a big blue sun,
small ruby bird. Under the covers her page

            glows with ghost letters. She holds
the brush, covers my hand, writing

wayward names that won’t go away. Her hand
keeps moving far back all those rooms

            I came through. She writes this.


The Wallace Stevens Journal


I was inside your hand,
then you let go.

Back to the mines
for evidence of damage.

I kept reaching around
for signs, directions

for transport
into an undamaged

relationship with sky.

(Where were our bodies?

Inside parenthetical ribs,
leaning toward what we loved

that was moving away.)

You were inside my hand,
barely, bracketed

and reaching to draw

your name across
a different sky.

Then I let go, entering
what the ribcage holds.


Minerva Online. Italian translation by Zingonia Zingone.

Hesham Alsabahi’s Poetry Book Blog. Arabic translation by Fatima Tahir.


            In the room of not-knowing,
you are texting, thumbs fluttering
in your lap like butterflies

            until I mark you absent
because there are no butterflies here.
Text is now a verb like like. 

            Kitchen pots used for bombs!
Crystal exclaims from the corner,
scanning her iPad amid

            “A Ritual to Read to Each Other.”
The world’s a broken bell jar.
A rabbit will be king of the ghosts.

            Three days’ fever washed out of my hair,
I’m about to reveal the difference
between lightning and a lightning bug,

            between logical and ethical appeals.
Despite the bombing in Boston,
this is not quaint. This is not

            an academic exercise. This is King
writing his Letter from Birmingham Jail
and my lesson against forgetting.

            Each day it breaks through
the cocoons before me as you
who are writing down your lives

            on the bomb of an alien god.
To climb out of the craters
and the hate they contain

            with the same hands that move
a pen. In your taps on the screen
I hear the rush of wings opening.


Fledgling Rag

Excavating Honesty: An Anthology of Rage and Hope in America

Double Helix

As if heart and lungs flatten back to ribs
            a clearing inside the body. As if there is

no use in a center, you can live
            hollowed out, away from one taking the place

of a mountain, you whose bluff body
            has the power to part water,

to spin parallel wakes, to stand in the way
            of wind’s blunt edge, diagonal to the flow.

As if standing at the crossroad
            buttoning your coat, wind-whipped, 

the coat scissoring into tatters and you
            spiraling into cloudscript,

a double helix across the sky, the future plunging
            to the past, where friction and pressure

shed a signature
            here, now, on the body vibrating.


Barrow Street

Postcard from Vortex Street

We dared to scrawl our names in chalk.
The beams still bear the marks
across a current of walkways,
map of sticks and apps we made
waiting for ourselves to show up.
Children gathering our bones asked,
Were they dancing bones or sad?
The world never was in place.
How do you want this day to live?
My friend saved a packet of seeds.
The moon illumines a bowl of oranges,
a burrowing owl in desert aquifer,
salutation to rotating oceans.
We were waving not drowning
in the heart’s magnetic field.
Imagination is a force: occupy.


Liberty’s Vigil: The Occupy Anthology, FootHills Publishing

About Place Journal: Wall Street.


Let’s draw the place where you live.
Let’s draw the one at home waiting for you,

the food you will eat. Under your desk,
under the wooden library table,

inside the instrument closet,
take this piece of paper, this crayon. 

Nurturing healing love, Jesse has written
on the board. Promise me.

Now run outside and keep your eyes shut.

From here on nothing will be like:
I was just thinking, they were just singing,

leaning on each other.

In the time it takes to breathe ten breaths,
to what extent do we actually see or hear?

What is the escape plan for children
between the ages of reason and magic? 

Keep looking at me. Because life is a vapor
and days are alphabets. Because the truth

one is not permitted to say.

Omit me, go back in.
Fold your hands on the table.

Let’s make maracas from bottles,
tissue, and gourds. Now run outside

and keep your eyes shut. The motion of hope
is not circling alone on a field, gasping for air.

Keep looking at me. Let’s try harp of gold.
Here is a shoebox. What else do we need?


The Pedestal Magazine


Where the tide carves a ledge, wave-thrust dissolves it,
            erasing homes already abandoned.

Sea’s steel horizon holds as sand pitches and reels.
            Sunset is a broken conch.

Feet slope and shift into remnants of faults and ages,
            seismic upshots dotted with blue umbrellas.

My arch’s channeled whelk around quartz and limestone
            embeds with history forgotten. 

Shell-houses brittle and beautiful go home with me,
            as if I could make myself small enough

to live in them. They will pile up in my face-jar transparent
            with cold salt.

The smallest wave inside a person can light or extinguish
            an ember. Nothing but that.


WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly