Courtney Birst

Courtney Birst grew up on a farm in the Midwest, but always longed for more. Moving to the Washington DC area proved to be just the thing this one-time farm girl needed. Now she loves to travel the world and is constantly on the lookout for a good book of poetry, a great glass of wine, a trail to run, and a reason to relax with friends. She has been published in numerous literary journals, including Connections, Welter, Plum Biscuit, and has published her first chapbook of poetry, Words Meant to be Spoken, available on Amazon. She has forthcoming publications in Pudding Magazine and NoVa Bards Anthology. Find her online, read her blog at, follow her on, or find her on Facebook:


Two Poems (May, 2015. Issue 50.)


I wasn’t there when the gurney pushed
your too-big body out the door
and into the expectant ambulance,
when you mumbled your apologies –
for taking the pills,
for being fat,
for changing your mind.

You had a lot to be sorry for.
You spent thirty days learning to be less crazy,
thirty days away from everything
except the golden ticket of your sadness.

With phone inches from ear
I pick the polish from my nails and wonder
if you’ll really do it this time.
We hang up and I flip to reality TV,
ready for a drama that isn’t yours.

A month later I call your boyfriend,
ask him if you’re going to
pop the pills / drag the razor / feed the gun.
He says he wants to fuck me
after you’re dead.
You don’t break up with him when I tell you,
and I wonder if you shouldn’t
end things. With him. Your life.

You make me promise to wear pink
to your funeral. You ask for balloons,
the Mylar ones that are shiny.
I can only think of how your parents will
hate me, will blame me for not saving you.

I pick out my dress, pink but not frilly.
I practice lining my eyes with black.
I practice crying to check if my makeup runs.

Secondhand Love

She wore the green dress,
a second hand costume of love,

a little tighter on her than it’d been
on me the year before.

My dress was pink and swam
on my narrow frame, an invisible

donation from a family friend.
We built pillow forts

with afghans our mother
and aunt crocheted with tired hands,

made tree limbs our monkey bars,
ran in wide arcs of tag through the yard,

went to the library and checked out the max
number of books to fuel our adventures.

We played till our bellies rumbled for knoephla soup
and the sun started to dip in the sky,

our father in the fields the whole time,
his skin baking in the sun like the mud pies

we made, baking like the bread
my mother kneaded – enough to feed six.

With gap-toothed grins we
presented dandelion bouquets

before washing up and sitting down
at the table, repeating the same prayer –

Come Lord Jesus be our guest
and let this food to us be blessed, amen.

Every Sunday brought church, dressed
in last year’s clothes, clean and close to God.

My sister and I sat side by side,
scuffed patent leather Mary Janes

swinging beneath the pews,
keeping quiet and humming hymns,

playing cat’s cradle till we broke
the yarn, then pulling

an imaginary string
from each other’s hand.

The Legendary