The Ice Pick Being Her Sharpest Object


Shaded forever, the only way to be
hounded, by a man with buckshot

holes in the center of his chest.
Smoothbore arms flexing tattoo stains

and tobacco pipe peppered
breath. Tapping

his foot from across the room.
My grandfather glued his shadow

over my bed with mucilage, a crushed
cream. Scarecrow affect,

to keep my girl body always
on edge. On my sixteenth birthday

I chipped that scare
-crow down with my mother’s ice pick.

Most of it came off in one rip, but some
strips still clung to the eaves. My mother

covered them with sun and moon
wallpaper. Don’t you come back, I said

to the crow when I set it free
like the dog that bit the baby’s face.

Maybe they are one in the same,
the crow and the dog. Maybe

a man is never an animal
and I’ve remembered it wrong.

But didn’t antlers grow from his head
whenever my mother’s back was turned?

Haven’t I spent my whole life



Night Mare


I’ll conjure up a horse, a woman,     succubus leech. Architecture
of sleep. Children under stress         are more prone to night terrors.
The boa swallowing the baby. Her      dozen, tire-thick coils. Marble-heavy,
a bag full of God. My grandmother    lured by confusion from room
to room, unable to recall what          she lost. My grandfather’s body
beneath a morgue white sheet,         how I felt his skull turn toward
me even when I wasn’t looking.    The war he went to that he never
spoke of, the war inside of him        that he never spoke of. The antlers
that grew from his head now           sprout from my head. Screech owl.
Nachtmarh. The corners                  of the house, all her angles, twisted
like a net. A diseased mouth           over my own. Was mother
the first word? Or was it no     My father with his steel
toed boots. How we sat on his  feet to prevent him from leaving.
Stomach in coils. When we had      food I couldn’t eat. Pinching
the dog’s neck                                 until she cried out. No one will know.


Photograph © Darron Birgenheier