mattressed (what the kid whimpers pt. 1)_
the mattress is possessed and my days are numbered
my numbers are possessed and
tree branches are starting to grow from inside
my neck, sprouting bloody bulbous limbs
wearing the springs of my mattress
in my sleep, a tree talks to my mattress
from my throat
they are in cohorts and I suppose
the ghost has nothing to do with it
but in the end the ghost will
have an affair with the mattress
and they will run away leaving the tree
and my numbers
I can’t speak because of the
and the karmic terror
of the heavy branches tearing
through my throat
the ghost doesn’t know about the tree
the mattress will never tell her
the mattress is missing several springs
the mattress is possessed and can only speak in tongues
so the ghost only hears the whispers of leaves
solanaceae [mandrakes and nightshades] (EgN pt. 3) by the sister
cw – rape. sexual assault.
witnesses instigate the styrofoam in me, a non-compostable rancor best fulminated with a bag of mush caps in the woods with my dog, Quaker Buttons, the one barking homiletics at me. down the path where we pick mandrakes sanctimoniously, i kick crab apples off COORS cardstock ramps under the mid atlantic overcast. the globose pomes mirror the severed domes of the grocers that notice where my stepfather puts his hands, how he ushers. plastic or paper, no matter, they’re all culpable. Buttons looks at me looking at my feet.
i try to explain it to my brother, the prodigal alchemist, why do you think we make so much burn cream? what about those sedatives you make so well? my stepfather is crafty, a holistic herbalist bragging about his homemade viagra, yet the vision of his effete dick lopsided on my sheets doesn’t break down. Buttons and i come to a clearing and peer from the crown spoke into a mop of sweaters piled on a giant sundial. stepdad’s been wondering where they keep going. i leave them here to piss him off. tear stained compost, cotton worm caves, desiccant to erected fantasies, garbage shoot to hell.
the entheogen comedown closes in like shower tile after my stepfather retreats to the tool shed. when really afraid, QB and i spoon, wet noses snoring, dreaming of litterless worlds with groceries packed in recycled sweaters passed off by people instead of wage workers that are willing to look up and notice fervid pleading and press the button hiding behind paper or plastic.
strychnos nux-vomica (EgN pt. 4) by the brother
as the acreage rattles against the truck’s side, a condition comes in like the cotton left on my old bed. it makes me foggy of muffled legacy, screams [a] haunting past(s) from the fringes of the hillside. prepare for the worst because a sign is coming up ahead and we are all afraid it will bare the name of a small town soon approaching. the truck kicks a dying factory vat and an acid splash found its way on the leaves made of antihistamines and chewed on by small animals with colds. we pretend tape deck fleetwood helps. i repeat my gratitude, my condition, one of misfortune, is tethered transience, is two lightbulbs in a tool shed, one for each headlight shining through splintered barn wall, is the devil of my sister.
it is within me to learn to know nothing, and it is without me that I know of nothing to learn. Death defined by foraging. a dead muffler haunts the current muffler and i decide to adopt its dissonant roar yet never give it siblings. My stepfather’s throwing his jacket in the backseat, face forward, fulfilling his vow, never looking back. i can’t help but respect it with a bloody cough. the ferns ice further along the freeway, ointments wasted, Nex Ex Machina, hell’s interruptions always start with anticlimax and curtain calls, [like] mama telling us not to catch the spirits like them madcap kids in candy houses of moldy sucrose and sin spores. my sister heard the wood talk lollipop.
the fences compress, titrate little houses, prune people, and when juiced release hospitals. you can imagine the kind of weather it would take for Johnson County to lock up. parked handicap, mama throwing up on the curb out the driver’s side. I’m sweating cold, but there are no more cotton blankets. there are no more tall trees to feed. no more quaker buttons, the pup named after our stepdad’s favorite biotoxin and foxhunter. just my sister’s eyes tearing the highway to pieces and us backed against storm proof sliding doors.
strongyloidiasis (EgN pt. 1) by the mother
cw – parasites. mention of S.Assault
feverish. now a drowned fish, tequila quenched, succumb to the nematode.
not having to tell the kids to be home on time because my new husband knows,
not having to cook because my new husband grows gardens,
as was the incubation bated by helminth bait,
the bottle bottomers lining my intestines,
eating their way to the surface.
not having to do the dishes because my new husband does.
i blame that ass licking basset hound,
that’s how i became hostess of my insides
my resentment comes on command. feverish.
born tiny from the muck and piggy-backed in a short coat.
not having to tell the kids to wash their hands because they know.
worms hatch beneath me at midnight, a quiet reproductive cycle. their children lost in excrement, postpartum sickness, something to be said for these parasites.
not having sex because my new husband is.
not going on fauna hunts because i know my new husband hates it.
sorry she said (EgN – but the sister is older now pt. 1) by the sister
“YOU COULD HAVE KILLED YOUR BROTHER.
WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?
IT’S BAD ENOUGH YOU’RE ONE OF THOSE
BUT TO BRING THAT EVIL INTO THE BODY OF YOUR BROTHER IS UNACCEPTABLE.
YOU EVEN LET HIM BEHIND THE WHEEL OF
YOU’LL PAY EVERY GOD DAMNED DIME
FOR THAT BARN MISSIE.
HOW DID YOU EXPECT
TO GET AWAY WITH THIS?”
and that’s how she said it
while rando #2 thought about my thigh gap, i shot my glance across the trailer garden and looked to the ground by instinct. telling that story always drags my eyes toward the plant line along the road. rando #2 introduces herself as Jess and tells me that she’s considering letting me drive her car on shrooms and possibly into a barn wall. Jess likes to watch car cabins fill with pond water and the inflection of physics that takes place in car doors as they submerge. Her Car Safety Window Smasher is Nirvana printed and bedazzled.
Jess asks me to describe night.
the whipped up dust above flood lights
reflected against a floor of junkie litterings
and moths with black tumors. garbage garden.
i didn’t say it had to be a bad night she says. no answer this time, but instead i stared intensly at her collar bone. i may have gulped. this went on while the backdrop grew busy with rising characters and the chirps of young hounds.
give me a bump and let’s get our fortunes read, i’m feeling lucky.
sanitatis salernitan (EgN pt. 2) by the brother
lily medicine is a feeling, not a drug. dr quiet creeps over the laboratory leftovers and rung leaves bringing leechcraft. he will be gone shortly after he reviews my notes. my coalescent puppy is chewing, waiting for my stepfather to assign tasks and leave, hopefully to another place that my puppy can’t smell so my puppy doesn’t have to know and I don’t have to look in my puppy’s face knowing my puppy smells where my stepfather is. he only ever silently closes the door.
tonight was different, and my stepfather charged ballistically back into tool shed, shaking a Ziploc crying “KID – TREAT THIS LIKE ERG0T” you got it. wearing blue lichen gloves, i took to mortal & pestle grinding, the mushrooms powdered and fibrous like mercury. playing with the sticky psychedelics i thought, the crematorium is no place for plant life, dead or living. i temporarily capped the remaining mush powder in a coffee can and open cupboards from my mind looking for a hiding spot. my secret, my misfortune, under drawer mites in the back buried garage table, is a pulsing stashed erg0t clump. when i shine my flashlight over the fungal flakes, dancing black spores cast disco shadows. QB never waits by this drawer. he only waits by the drawer with treats.
back to the notes, the drawing board, the cutting board, the philosopher’s egg, the crucible, the answer around here somewhere, the alembic, the rinsed and dried mortar and pestle, the retort stand, the bunsen burner, the academic journal of alchemy and wishfulthinking, the field work, the flower ichor, the knife set, the chance to kill the worm, the chance to save my sister, the pressure, the puppy, back to the puppy chewing on the drawer handle. i continue to cut lilies and try to smile.
tree-venge (what the kid whimpers pt. 2)__
the tree in my throat started budding, i coughed up flowers
shaped like nipples and my doctor
called the government
now they want to sever my neck, count my rings and guess my age
I am afraid the sap will start seeping and i am afraid
that you are committed to the idea of putting your ear against the hole
the government is calling again, this time of an alien kind
they are also curious
I offered them my toes, but only soil drained from my shoes when removed
I guess you’re going to have to sweep more often
dirt, petals, and alien footprints
sick puppies (EgN – but the sister is older now pt. 3) by the sister
sick puppies in a grocery cart, sleeping wheeze and the low whistle of methadone production. strays on blankets and collared humans on dust. I’m eyed by a gypsy unfolding tarot palms, reapers tattooed between the lines. i deposit (four) crumpled bills and sit down puppies adjacent. in your ear whispering, get ready to run.
all the elements of pocket bones are shaken under a trashed owl tumbler and unleashed by the fortune teller onto the table. big hush, bug bubbler, bone boiling little worms that frighten the puppies to which you respond. fleas pinched between your nails. floppy paws with mold caught in their toe webs. the bet is still on the table, an ossified fortune spreading through hell. a reciprocation of spawned love, pockets emptied and cavernous, peered upon by electric overlords, owls with (three-sixty) heads, coughing up digested ingredients, melted by psychic bile and forming calcium stalactites like chew toys before the ball drops.
good girl. i say. she says,
i think i like this one, but i want all of them
she’s cute i say
i think it’s a he she says
what will you name him?
and the trailer park explodes, that hatch howling at our feet, molten misfortune igniting the staleness, lighting the opportunity, the fuse: a trail of cans to the truck, crumpled by a racing grocery cart, puppies at the helm, pawing for my keys, my pocket bones, still burning on the table with the skeleton seer. steps ahead, you hop in the bed with puppy pits, lay down, lift off. a puppy licks you in the face and the truck wears a fire crown.
sad (EgN – but the sister is older now pt. 5) by the stepfather
it’s the fattest fuckin alimony check in the goddamn world. rigged jury, some bullshit liberal cuck with a pro bono hard on. they ruined her body with the steroids. my workshop had everything she needed, but i’ll let her walk around with empty cells if she wants. everything in my body is still mine sweetheart. you’re as vulnerable as they are. sick like that skinny necktie you’ve got taking my kids away talking about doing things i never said i did.
matter of fact i think st. anthony’s fire is cooking the mad cow and Monsanto is performing satanic rites in our backyard. this big ol’ fuckin bar-b-que is gonna break every antibiotic you’ve got. who’da guessed slamming grain against the sides of cattle intestine could evolve more treacherous life than us in shorter time? Government’s gonna spend every fifth of my paycheck since i put my hands in soil this morning on all the diabetic bastards on medicaid, they give zero shits.. and yet
seems like CPS and the DOJ all got things to say about how my farm ain’t safe and that i’ve been doing things i never said i did and they take my wife anyway. might just make a man turn from medicine. careful where you drink your coffee fellas.
setting the table (EgN – but the sister is older now pt. 4) by the mother
her biological father had what we can now recognize as Celiacs disease. he tore holes in his stomach to die watching the way we devoured his food. i thought my last husband had similar qualities, like his craftiness with vegan food and the forward incline in his hike that made his shoulders seem strong enough for children. it was a costly mistake.
in a new cookbook, i found vegan green bean casserole and made it without the green beans. i’ve never met Jess, but my daughter tells me she’s nice and that they want to have microbrewery beer in the fridge. she says they adopted an English setter that they’ve named QC.
my first love built a family on big acreages of planted delicacies, pensionless seasons, but enough for puppies, pastures, and portobello sandwiches. when he died, the smallest things crawled into us and we thought because they were small we were safe. the chef never let us go hungry and washed the knives for us while we were distracted by sundaes. his life insurance was the land where he planned to be buried and i think he lives (third person present) tree lives (plural life) now because of it.
jokes about cat piss and a laugh i didn’t cover my mouth for. Jess closed in for the kill with her story about lighting Kim Gordon’s cigarette with Kim’s lighter she stole earlier. my daughter has that lighter now and carries it like a rabbit’s foot. don’t be afraid to say it. don’t be afraid. we should do this again sometime.
strokes (EgN – but the sister is older now pt. 2) by Jess
i let loose a hundred black butterflies and they flew into the gutter. a bloody mess of bodies, muddy and squirming. i noticed freckles of blue and sea green i’d never seen before. this is how i found out they were poisonous. heartache poison. acid stained polka dots dressed beneath a black shield, gutter shade. her ass fluttered like watercolors in dirty brush strokes. she knows i smoke above her, think below her, live north of her. my net is empty and lakes are around here. poisonous acid lakes that will leave us naked. i want to hang your clothes from that gutter.
sprouts (EgN – QB gets a poem too) by the brother
woof! woof? woof!
you’re feeling better!
can we go outside?
It’s great to see you again!
i wrote new translations of what you might have barked from my consciousness this morning, scraps of messages at the edge of a wet nose, cross eyed and ravenous. they are excerpts from a long publication i received and i used many ellipses in order to create them. it was pretty much just ass licking between the lines.
my work as an academic suits me fine, QB. i still watch over your lineage even though your progeny get their hairs on the spines of fine books. the library ladies get cross until i bring in QT, your granddaughter. she’s a politician in the making, right down to stealing hearts and pissing on apple trees. time gets dressed with daylight and puppy chow until it undresses with a long whistle under lamplight. the backyard erupts with sprinting paws and the shades get drawn down as we all curl.
in sleep at night i chase my tail. the translations inverse and you are barking at me from the day i got back from the hospital. are you feeling better? let’s go outside. when can i see you again?
(what the kid whimpers pt. 3)___
my great throat tree is featured in float parades now
sponsored by paper mills
they send us free notebooks and you leave me
rounds of exquisite corpse to play
or folded frogs
or news of another alleged abduction with dirty political jokes in the margins
or the times you jot down to remember when you thought of the ghost
when i find these on my table, i sneak off for a phone call to the mattress
the mattress doesn’t care to watch parades on live broadcasted television
i can hear the ghost making breakfast on the other end
the mattress stares at the ceiling mostly and i remember this and i’m so
i pick up a folded sheet and draw the trunk torso
and inside the tree trunk i draw a little man playing the french horn
but before drawing hearts spilling from the brass
i drew a massive tit
i smiled, knew you’d appreciate it, and started sweeping
french horn, a bottle neckless hourglass and butterscotch tape (what the kid whimpered last)____
I am a French horn, a bottle neckless hourglass and butterscotch tape
You’re a red harp with veins painted on the side
When I come home, you see me as an acrylic heap with chips of lead and belly aching homing words
Scotch sticks and smoke smells and the stitches are uncomfortable on my neck where you often warm your hands
I am a masquerade of shellfish clamoring on about the epitome of burlesque humor
You’re alien to anything other than sourdough and design
I have structured my thesis around burlesque and you fail to see the humor
When I fear the apologists
You fear the escapists
I am the tigers of the world, borrowing viciousness
You’re a long pause, loved and disquieted, painting my stripes as veins
I’m freaked out now because the apologists are escaping and the escapists are apologizing
At this clear impasse, you pity and press on until my fingers at the French horn drain to my sides
I am an island in a puddle of sand
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