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Clinical Trial: Human with Wings

Patient-Reported Outcome

Day 91

The condemned men must find me
the unlikeliest of angels, sitting next to them
after their last meal of fried chicken
and sweet peas. Or over-easy eggs
and toast. A single olive with the pit
still inside. It's where I spend most of my time,
comforting murderers. Everyone wants
to feel of use. After the chaplains and mothers
have gone, I try to sort the prisoners'
earliest memories, like petals into cupped hands.
Soon the guards are Bradford pears.
And caged out, I pray before their walk
to the death chamber, pray the cold row
blooms into an esplanade of cherry trees.

Surgical Wing


“The flocks of fantastical or damaged anatomies in Kristin Robertson’s debut collection of poems, Surgical Wing, beguile us in equal measures through the haunted reach of their perils and promises. Whether Robertson’s speakers choose a gun safe made to mimic a cuckoo clock, paint a porch pale blue to ward off ‘haints,‘ or dare to feed emus behind a sign that reads ‘We Bite,‘ these steely Southern Gothic myths conjure a powerful compendium of bodies marred and metamorphic.”

—Anna Journey

“Kristin Robertson’s Surgical Wing is awhirr with swans, geese, herons, angels, and winged creatures of all kinds. Offering startling images and glorious, musical language, the poems remind readers of humans’ kinship with animals, directly connecting the abuse of animals to the abuse of people, especially women. In this book, you will find yourself in phone booths, county fairs, fishing boats, and among ghosts. Strange birds will enter hospital waiting rooms. You will be seduced by knot-makers. You will witness illness, grief, and healing. Finally, the book itself will become the wings that steer you to a greater understanding of yourself and the world.”

—Anya Silver

“Kristin Robertson’s poems are chock-full of so much magic you’ll believe she can fly. Surgical Wing marks the emergence of an important new voice in American poetry. This book is a truly dynamite debut.”

—David Bottoms

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