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Born and raised at the tip of the Appalachian Mountains in northern Alabama, Chella Courington grew up in a family of storytellers. Seduced by the written word, she pursued a Doctorate in Literature at the University of South Carolina and studied with James Dickey. In 2002 she moved to California with an economist and two cats before returning to poetry.

Now teaching at Santa Barbara City College, she has poetry published or is forthcoming in Carquinez Poetry Review, Phantasmagoria, Ibbetson St Press, In The Grove, Iris (online), The Tusculum Review, Lotus Blooms Journal, King Log, NILAS, Healing Voice, and several anthologies. Her first chapbook, published by Foothills Publishing of New York in November 2004, is entitled Southern Girl Gone Wrong.

Summer at Thirteen

Anna Claire and I never like tall grass
afraid we’ll step on a cottonmouth.
But water the color of indigo 
waits for us the other side of danger.

We shed jeans, shirts, underwear, 
mark our place at the edge,
hold hands like Ruth and Naomi
wading into the deep.

With each step, water moves higher,
chills our new breasts. 
I throw my arms around Anna Claire,
press against her for warmth.

She pushes away, 
plunges deep beyond,
surfaces, arches, 
plunges again,
swims under me, 
cradles my back in her palms, 
lifting me to the air 
so I float on her fingertips.

Her hands move gently 
touch my shoulder and thigh. 
She kisses my lips, 
unclosing my eyes with her tongue.

We don’t say a word
before we reach the point of mooring
before we venture back through tall grass.

This poem first appeared in Ibbetson St. Press and later in my chapbook Southern Girl Gone Wrong (Foothills Publishing, 2004).



While Natalie Wood twirls in the Tennessee night 
suspended above trucks 
Billy pushes me down on the seat
fumbles with my bra. 

He’s heavy and clumsy 
wants me for his steady girl
leaves a hickey on my breast.

I know how to hide traces of sex
with powder and perfume
how to please penis and mama
at the same time

go through a string of Billies
settle out of state
for one of them.

Years later Natalie falls off a boat.

I dream I’m treading water when
she reaches for help.
Afraid of going under 
I watch her drown. 

This poem first appeared in King Log and later in my chapbook Southern Girl Gone Wrong (Foothills Publishing, 2004).


The Night I’m Sharon Olds 

Promising gin, revelers entice me 
to the writers’ conference party. 
People glance at my blank badge. 
Giddy from martinis, I channel 
letters that curl and rise through my fingers 
like cigarette smoke.
Tag this self Sharon Olds.

A man with receding hair thanks me
for naming his poetry 
honorable mention. 
His words mount and fall 
like gasps of an asthmatic.
I want to press my lips against his lips.
Breathe him into first place
and cover his body with laurel. 

I list toward the featured playwright 
buoyed by his circle of novices
who swoon to every syllable uttered.
He stares at my loopy famous name.
Winds his hand over my shoulder.
Where are you now?
I mutter, in the crook of your arm
and offer him a taste of juniper. 

This poem appeared in The Tusculum Review (2005).


































© 2005 Chella Courington

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