Nocturne (Winner of the 2023 Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Poetry Prize)

after Tracey Emin, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995

sunday, and the dogs outside won’t stop 

howling, an animal grief. I, too, miss my mother.  

I miss the gentle throb of rain against 

a window, the way she held 

me, her gentle hands giving me away

to sleep. our shadows sharked onto the wall like 

talismans against the dark. I did not know, then,

to be afraid, and I carried myself accordingly,

loved beyond necessity, ate until I was full. 

that was before I grew into this body, its borrowed

curves, its inherited pain. before the world opened up 

to me like a gunmetal flower, and everything afterward

was paid in blood. I am still someone’s 

child. I forget this sometimes. someone outside yells stop

the clocks. I want to agree but I can’t find

my tongue. my flesh echoing 

and echoing. at night, I practice drowning, invest

in the ritual of my body. my hair inked against 

the surface of the bedsheet like a departed

shadow. I learn transformation in

sweat, again and again. how easily breath

becomes water. how quietly a body is lost

in another.


Claire Pinkston, faced away from the camera and smiles with her eyes closed. She is sitting outside surrounded by potted plants, and leans against a wall. She has brown skin and long brown curly hair, which is tied with a white ribbon.

Claire Pinkston is a biracial Black poet studying at Yale University. Her work has previously been recognized by the YoungArts foundation and the University of Louisville and is published in diode, Palette Poetry and The Offing, among others. She is growing with her poetry.