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Kelly McLennon

Poetry

 

Asylum

 

How are you feeling this morning?

The moon sang to me last night. A song for no one else, not even the ants. The ants work with one mind so they don’t know what I’m doing. They’re too busy looking for the sugar lumps I hid for them, to bring them back to their queen. I wait for her.

 

Who?

She’s my lover, the moon. You said as much yourself, calling me moon-sick. I let her sweep my naked body and the flies can only watch in envy. They rub their little hands and leer, their puckering mouths a genuflection.

 

Any symptoms of hysteria?

Listen to me. She’s going to take me away. She wants to drain me and fill me up with seawater. It helps to put heavy rocks in your pockets but you took away my pockets.

 

Thoughts of self-harm?

It’s for my own good. Her fingers are cold but I will make them warm. I will wrap my thighs around her and she’ll drink me like the spiders. They sigh in a register we can’t pick up.

 

Are your delusions worsening?

Her eyes glow red when she licks her lips. Even when the bats fly between us she holds me with her gaze. I spilt my tea onto myself and she rubbed away the tenderness.

 

These are very unnatural desires.

She transcends your trifling understanding. Listen, listen. She picked me. You call me lunatic but you don’t know the half of it. We live and die by her cycles. She feeds from my blood, even though you keep taking it from me.

 

Why are you crying?

The doves made a nest outside my window, the window with the bars. They don’t coo like doves should, they moan like they’re dying. I beat my fists on the walls but I can’t make it stop. I hear it when I close my eyes.



 

Scavenger

Behind the hospital I lurk,

Scavenging, ravaging

Dumpster after dumpster of medical waste.

Bags of bloodied tissue,

Biological scrap,

Physical evidence of the jokes nature plays on life.

 

I tear into the viscera,

Plunging into entrails with my

Bare buzzard neck,

Rough red sandpaper skin,

The better for keeping me clean, my love,

As I burrow into human remnants.

 

Blood as seasoning,

Blood as garnish,

Blood

Spattered over all,

Flesh of gray and dappled purple,

Blue, green with disease and error,

Filth of nature.

Tied up neatly like Christmas presents

By the white, latex-coated vivisectionists

And left for me to unwrap with child-like greed.

 

I rummage through this veritable yard sale of discards.

I consume it all,

The contaminated syringe with its

Crunch

Of glass,

The aftertaste of the virus as heavy

As the sickening stench of a garden

In heavy, heavy bloom.

 

Flies, flies everywhere,

With even less discrimination than I,

Gorge on the putrid decomposition,

The smell so thick, nearly visible,

Wafting and spreading its smog through the city,

Bacteria infesting, unconstrained across expanse,

Passed from human to human with touch, touch, touch.

 

I wade through this feast, this

Filet of man,

In search of the delicacy of meats:

The organ, reserved,

Arrived too late.

A rarity indeed, but worth the wait.

The gummy texture, chewing like caramel,

Slithering down my throat as 

Shudder

 

In pleasure.

This is my quarry, this my pursuit.

Oh heart, oh thick muscle and fat,

Oozing a rush of blood, sliding down the gullet at first bite,

Oh heaven, you know no such gluttonous ecstasy.



 

Compulsive

 

The skin is dry and cracked. A fist will split the seams, and still I wash my hands.

A miswired mind unfolding filth, anxiety mounts until I wash my hands.

 

Sometimes it’s palpable: the dirt amassing, parading

army, a march into each crease. Bacterial thrill. I wash my hands

 

as if it solves the problem, as if each soap-and-rinse imbues

control. I’m sick. Not a cough and sneeze sort of ill for which I wash my hands,

 

but one less visible, a mental cannibalization,

rationalizing the illusion, the comfort to instill “I wash my hands”

 

with a sense of strength, mastery over my threatened tender sphere.

Try to block it out, hold it back, power of my will. I wash my hands

 

in resignation, a failure. I disappoint.

This is something I can’t kill. I wash my hands

 

and they lobotomize with words.

They give me pills. I wash my hands.

 

I wash my hands/

 

I wash my hands/

 

I wash my hands/

 

They were wrong when they named me.

I am no warrior. I still wash my hands.



 

The Girls

They

pick

at their nails

because

that is all

they can reach

in their handcuffs.

 

The warden says

it’s to keep them safe

but they

know

 

They can see

the mud under

his fingernails

which is why

they pick

their own.

 

Their skirts are wrinkled

(from sitting all day

on the concrete)

and this, they know,

is criminal.

 

The warden puts

the handcuff key

in his mouth

and asks the girls

to kiss it out of him

 

and some think

maybe they should

as if, after all this time,

he is a man of honor.

 

This army of little girls—

What can I say?

No poem can do them justice.



 

Marionette

 

A limp, lifeless plaything

Slave to the master’s whim

Sways from catgut string

 

Back and forth he makes it swing

Across the stage the feet barely skim;

A limp, lifeless plaything

 

See how it flies without a wing!

How it dances with borrowed vim,

Sways from catgut string

 

A twitch of the wrist, watch it fling!

Its body mercilessly controlled by him:

A limp, lifeless plaything

 

Now the show is done; evening

Has settled and each delicate wooden limb

Sways from catgut string

 

The lines are tangled in makeshift sling.

With a smile, strained and grim

A limp, lifeless plaything

Sways from catgut string.



 

Kelly McLennon writes poetry and fiction. She earned her B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing from Sonoma State University. A former intern at Copper Canyon Press, the California native now lives in Minneapolis and is an assistant poetry editor for Narrative Magazine. Bienvenue au Danse, Kelly.