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
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
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