excerpts from mt desert by Joey Gould

+ if it’s dead the sea won’t miss its salt
which abba [daddy] sells

not the water   e v a p o r a t i n g 
not the answer

but a confusion at the beginning
of the puzzle because

here are all the clues + maybe a stick
maybe a cord 

of unseasoned wood   abba says good
luck like before a game

the bears licking blue leaves   when 
they skate until an alarm

best drafted boys gone sugaring
drilling holes   boiling blood

when the snow’s in his face as desert
when the lights hiccup   desert

him with an secondary assist like what
an average miner

are you an ace with a schmear of ash
then the counting + tithe

the picking of kindling along the gravel
of mt desert road

the slaying of the firstborn   lets expensive
space to the undergrad

who just wants to party   wants to score   
those ice skating maple men

the thrill of winning at the cost of a sea
they say abba willed it so let it be done


abraham of the shit-eating grin was like ok i will offer you my son as a covenant blah blah blah but in those times they lived hundreds of years so what’s one lil bean | one reed in the river | one dessert or desert or | anyway | understanding is for the witches + god was like burn up yr son + abba was like omw   he drove there with isaac riding shotgun | he gassed up w the boys | a round at the vfw + duct tape in the trunk | salt in the snacks | by the third day in the distance their mt 

is this a construction job abba – isaac asked –  is this a joke


o dear lord o god o my beloved it is pop quiz time

  |q| what old maps
a| handwritten in almost discernable script
b| the language of our fathers + our fathers’ fathers
c| bought in a gas station then laminated by hand
d| so many of the above

  |q| sexual history (max seven characters) (unless they’re real characters

  |q| based on textual evidence what is meant by abba
a| fathers
b| a dead tree soaked at the pond’s edge
c| culprit
d| so many of the gods above

  |q| what best describes the location of mt desert
a| acadia in the late spring
b| the long narrow human aortae
c| the other side of the fence in the overgrown backyard on the one hand an eyesore on the other a place of bees
d| so many of the fields away past yr childhood home

  |q| a man’s booming voice across the pond amplified by the water is
a| heard
b| all
c| even more like a fire than the sunset last night
d| what moses heard on mt desert
e| death

  |q| you go into the fire
a| fully clothed
b| naked
c| as an offering
d| in the summer quit of all titles tithes new
e|to hunt as the lion

  |q| pick one short essay
a| a line of sodden rope under 
b|a light blinking on the island   why
c| i’m going to count to three
d|making it on time
e| water in the canoe

  |q| click all that apply
a| for the wood stove + splitter   | the sheep | spring amphibians | dusk + a place lit af | these fungi on this log | snowy mt pass | the door at the end of my suffering there was a door


Joey Gould, a non-binary writing tutor, wrote The Acute Avian Heart (2019, Lily Poetry Review) & Penitent > Arbiter (2022, Lily Poetry Review). Joey’s work has appeared in The Compassion Anthology, Memoir Mixtapes, & District Lit. They also write reviews & serve as Poetry Editor for Drunk Monkeys. Joey is grateful to Sundress Academy for the Arts for a residency at Firefly Farms that supported their writing. Photo by Jessica Lynne Furtado / Jess of all Trades.

The last line of Joey’s quiz is borrowed from Louise Glück’s poem “The Wild Iris”