They say she’s gone the way of Cain,
wallows in intentional misery
as transgressor, slave to the spirit
working in her, a daughter of disobedience.
But she insists she’s God’s child
since He punishes her like a parent,
like when he twisted her up in bedding
and beat her almost nameless.
She couldn’t remember her next breath
or how she found her way out,
didn’t know younger shapes in bunk beds
noticed her spasming for air,
swollen-faced on the hall floor—
siblings who later call her liar.
She lay there born again, wet, swaddled in
their first pledge: to love her with discipline.
So when they disown her from God now,
it doesn’t take.
Taught God loves with violence,
she never doubts she is His child.
you cried in my chest that your ex-wife
was pregnant so she was marrying another
man—and I was there, holding your hand.
You’ve penetrated me with your private
thoughts for six years now. But last night
in your bed, I saw her again in your head.
rivers in your eyes pulsed with how you
once lulled her to sleep beside you. Yet
in the daylight you kept her in your pocket,
forgot her when you were supposed to get
her, left her at work, let her walk home.
But I bet it severed her skin from bone, too,
to leave you and walk out.
you keep me beside you—you’re doing it
better since now you’re older. I remember
the loves I’ve left behind too. . . But you are
mine, I’m here to hold you when you fall
into your own puddles, straddling the line
between excitement and fear.
And here I am,
laundering the dirt from your shirts, tailoring
the crotch your big dick keeps ripping through
your jeans. But I can fix nothing. No rings
have passed between us, yet I’ll hold you till
the night passes and you finally break your
I can only
be the one who helps you move on, knowing
one day, there’ll be a new one who’ll help you
move on from me.
Sick was she who birthed three skeletons
found under warrant in her older kids’ closets,
where searching revealed corpses in backpacks—
spines inside onesies, diapered pelvises,
skulls still crowned with midnight hair.
Since the dead were discovered dressed,
they most likely breathed before they ceased—
desiccated membranes in mattress excrement,
malaised and cachectic, vultures on ceiling,
eyes sedate, unaware of place.
Acute malnutrition seems less ghastly
than the months of chronic, silent wasting
I endured beside infants who didn’t survive.
Until rescue, I rotted too, since no oneknew I was even alive.
Catherine Zickgraf has performed her poetry in Madrid and Puerto Rico—yet homeschooling her autistic youngest inspires her the most. Her writing has appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, [Pank], Bartleby-Snopes, and GUD Magazine. You can find her at http://caththegreat.blogspot.