Poetry: Kristin George Bagdanov

Selected by Carl Phillips as a finalist for the Omnidawn Chapbook Contest

from Diurne



To become whole without first becoming who




Species barrier also a binding. Small deaths daily keep us close.

Method: I divide my desire by the background extinction rate

Antarctic ice shelf Larsen C calved an iceberg the size of Delaware today. This is the first time I have really thought about Delaware.

I’m not a good runner but I do it almost daily. Sometimes I walk if no one is looking. I hate the sound of unmediated breath.

Also today, humans formed a human chain off the coast of FL to save someone from a rip current. The man who started it said he got the idea from watching ants. Surplus populations are often compared to insects. As in, “They were crawling all over the city.” In this case, that was not the case.

This is where I tell you nothing is unmediated

I am tired of language-as-messenger getting shot for not being the thing itself

Humans are also building a clock to measure 10,000 years: The Long Now. 10,000 is a biblical number. It means “too much.” It means “line between human and god.” Not enough for Frost, who wanted ten thousand thousand apples.

Extinction is the death of populations. No intimacy of that last guttural breath. No mass last rites. 

Pre-petrified bodies a half-billion years ago. Hot perspiring heaps used skin as binding agent, zone of inclusion.

The zone of exclusion around Fukushima Daiichi is 20km wide

Soft parts go first. Flesh peats into coal into engine into smoke. The center burns red.

Everyone is waiting for this poem to align

Roof shingles and a broken window. Moss and rust. These are images you might find on iStock when you search for “barn” or “countryside.” 

We produce each other constantly. A sentence is a method of growing toward.

If you get caught in a rip current, you should swim parallel to the shore. That is what ants would do.

A fragment is not as radical as people think. It is nostalgic for its whole, always longing to return.





Make space for chokecherry, which prefers to stretch out and root deep. This may sound trite under current conditions.

The Paleolithic handprints in Pech Merle cave were measured and determined to be women’s. I was told, “The first artists were women” as an encouragement. All I see is evidence of pressure. The fingers spread wide to grasp their own mark. 

Suction of wet shirt on skin

You are not overhearing me

Do all the poets who write about sex no longer have mothers? 

He became a gesture that moved me

Certain stones which have the figures of animals inside and outside, said someone 

Civilization as achievement: non-barbaric

This poem is civilized. It is following the rules I have established.

The rule now would be to break it. Everyone is waiting for this poem to turn.

Surplus populations are often referred to as strays. Cleaning a city makes it attractive to foreign capital. Ownership being next to godliness.  

A city is built upon many deaths. A population, once extinct, validates the civilizing mechanism. 

Make live / let die / kill / erase

Sever part from whole to find what haunts. Fragment, a shape of ruin. Edge that erases the memory of center. 

I thought he was a theory that proved me

Identity is a wound, said someone

In the interim, the poem makes its own method

from Diurne, winner of the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize and available now from Tupelo Press

Kristin George Bagdanov earned her M.F.A. in poetry from Colorado State University and is currently a PhD candidate in English Literature at U.C. Davis. Her poems have recently appeared in Boston Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Puerto Del Sol, and other journals. Her books include Fossils in the Making (Black Ocean, 2019) and Diurne (Tupelo Press, 2019).She is the senior poetry editor of Ruminate Magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @KristinGeorgeB.