Literary Orphans

Lunchbox Notes to a Daughter Unborn by Danielle Lea Buchanan

Magdalena Roeseler-Mirror

Dear Ethel,

Strawberries are skyscrapers with 200 black windows. I’m here, wiping clear every seed like Hello! Always, always with you.

Dear Juniper,

When most happy, you’ll be very afraid and think: exhaust pipes, huffing, turning the wheel at 102 m.p.h, rope, ceilings, a chair…tipping. I don’t want you happy. What when it goes? What done to stop its going? Remember Auntie Billy and the oven and that everything, everything fleets. Today is just an apple.

Dear Josephine,

Travel. Eat from nothing but battered carts on wheels. The closer to hepatitis, the closer to divinity. Poverty puts flavor in. Once, it was snowing in the Northern most tip of Vietnam, near Ha Long Bay, limestone caves, the sea. A wet grey. Faces blistered red, peeling down like Crayola paper into steamed ox tail broth. A mother pulled a child without legs by rope on a piece of cardboard with one wheel—selling lottery tickets and sex. I mouthed a spoon of ginger silken tofu, then police busted through make-shift windows.

Dear Vera,

On love:


On love:


On Love:




Dear Lily Lea,

You are not your name. You owe nothing to a word. You are not your thoughts. You are not your actions (impulsive). You are not what others think you are (perception prisms). You are not what you think you are (be tender). You are what you are. To become.

Dear Cress,

If you had something to carry, it’d be a pink My Little Pony box. There’d be a thermos of Arabic drink: black tea, cardamom, pistachio milk and orange zest wrapped in cheesecloth seeped in the sweat of roses. Cut the furry blue off this banana. Here’s .50 cents.

Dear Dottie,

In case you wanted another place, isn’t it a shame? Sun, leaves, crickets, rain. Stamping you without proper postage to send you elsewhere.

Dear Olive,

You missed the bus again. I told you. If I don’t wake, cold water. If not cold water, ice. If not ice, hit. Hit harder. If not strikes, cord the arm, load the syringe. Don’t you miss that bus. I come back, always I do. The dandelion on my pillow, thank you.

Daisy, darling,

The abortion clinic hallways were socketed with 15 white noise machines. I had to do it. I’d be nothing but the stunt of you, bone and being, it’s true. Wood me into a canoe. Carve invisible footholds into the breasts of me. I’ll carry you through dead water.

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Danielle Lea Buchanan’s poetry, hybridities, collaborative art, fiction, book reviews, interviews, teaching guides and oddities have appeared or are forthcoming in McSweeney’s, Mid-American Review, New Orleans, Puerto del Sol, New Delta Review, Noemi Press, Psychopomp, Robot Melon, Cosmonauts Avenue, Literary Orphans, Occulum, Dinosaur Beesf(r)iction, New York, Whole Beast Rag, Crag and other elsewheres. Currently, she’s a MFA candidate at Iowa State University and visual art director for Flyway. She was shortlisted for the Master Review’s 2016 Fall Fiction contest judged by Kelly Link, and winner of Passages North’s 2017 Ray Ventre Nonfiction prize selected by Jenny Boully.  

Literary Orphans Author Photo

O Typekey Divider

–Art by Magdalena Roeseler