Simplify the Ruins


I had not yet really begun the long trek
up the gravel driveway that leads to my childhood home
when the snake bit me. He bit me so good.
The pain in my ankle soon became the pain in my lungs,
and I saw the snake retreat into the undergrowth of the woods,
slowly, what I thought was his black and white body more like the vacuum
hose for our pool than the living structure of a real creature.

I fell gently into the gravel. No one saw me there,
so I fell gently into the gravel, the unknown landscape of the earth,
into the unknown landscape of second thought,

and I dreamed an automatic dream about death,
though death was not a cloaked fearful figure,
but my grandmother the granny witch raising the barrel of a loaded shotgun
until it reached alignment with the small head of a water moccasin.

I watched my grandmother kill the snake.
I saw her hang his binary body across the fence.

I could have clapped my hands if my hands hadn’t been
fourteen balloons trying to get away.

And I guess I could have dreamed something better.
I guess I could have dreamed of my favorite boy
cousin, the one I wanted to be, diving into his family’s pool,
his long tan legs lithe and straight above his small head,
a cannon shot into the water, the brown of him
disappearing before us all.


In Which I Am Dying

All along the white boundary of this room,
the trees look like holidays I’ll never remember.

I try to smell the collards slow cooked
with a ham hock & vinegar,

but the snow drifts in from the open window,
& all I can smell is that winter

in which I am always dying,
the one where I burned my throat

when I inhaled the two of us,
when I breathed in the shifting platelets
of our very own map,

the one in which I became not a body
as you had known me to be,

but an owl, pale & secretive,
perched delicately on your chest,
telling your future.


Erin J. Mullikin is the author of the chapbooks, When You Approach Me at the Lake of Tomorrow (Slash Pine Press) and Strategies for the Bromidic (dancing girl press), and their poems and short fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in places such as ILK, Spork, Birdfeast, inter|rupture, The Yoke, and Best New Poets 2014. They are a founding editor for NightBlock and Midnight City Books.