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Three Poems by Andrea Blythe and Laura Madeline Wiseman



Pouring the Pennyroyal



Before this, we chased the striped cat, followed the fence to find

the chink sheared by someone’s wire clippers, slid down hills

festooned by wild thatches of overgrowth and flowers. After this,

she lived for seven years with a tall man who had partial control

over his face, one that quivered and drooped, as if what he sought

to say fought against the more cultivated side, the one careful

with words, calculating effect before offering sound. We always

imagined him white-masked and black-caped, swirling in a blur

through corridors, expandable police baton like a wand in hand,

ushering a darkness in his wake, a shroud he dragged. This

path, he told her, follow. One of us, the eldest, did, drugged

and seduced by this phantom specter, the one who said, I will take

care of you. Though we heard, I will teach you to care only for me.

During this, she said, Never sit too close to the stage, never spoil

the illusion — whispers made into the phone, green-tinted messages

about mists, singing men, the lights of the half-seen standing

in the dark wings between acts. Before this, we were girls,

cheshires of shifting stripes teasing, tattooing great tails

mid-hunt below the feeders of birds. Before this, we were Alice

tumbling to where hats were laced with mercury and dresses

were coated in arsenic green. Before this, we were sopranos

chased by burnt men in flapping capes, our notes and songs

distorted by the full chorus of those not alive, but partial.

We would have leapt anywhere, like cats, like girls, into the pit

of glinting brass tubas and silver flutes, polished red violins

and syncopated drums amid the folding chairs and music stands.

After this, when she arrived on our girlhood porch, papers in hand,

she said, I’m late. We all answered, You’re never too late for tea.

Fish Bone Wishes



I. The Fish


Golden eyes, golden

scales, ten-foot long, this lake fish

speaks to friend a girl.


Guardian spirit

comforts this dirt and rags girl,

flashes shining scales.


II. The Mother


Mother keeps the girl

to scrub, clean, and sew. She works

and keeps to herself.


Mother’s a creature

of watchful eyes, jealous tongue,

but harmless, fat, old.


What happiness should

a spoiled girl swallow? A fish

is better roasted.


III. The Girl


At mother’s bidding,

I dress in tattered rags, hook

dinner from the lake.


Mother and I eat

the golden fish, feast on eyes

and tail, bone white flesh.


We season the rice,

drink cups of tea, bow in thanks

for stepsister’s find.


Bitter the tears of

which I have always drunk deep,

choking on false hope.


Pale grandfather ghost

murmurs like wind and I speak

soft to slender bones.


He tells me to bury

the fish bones in pots. I dig holes

at my bed corners.


He tells me to speak

my needs to the bones, as if

the dead grant wishes.


I am clothed in silk,

sea-green and fisher feathers,

wear slippers of gold.


Festival bound, I

walk the long road by slippered

foot, seeking the light.


New Year Festival—

incense, glowing lanterns, and

sweet pastry offerings.


False princess, I am

admired by handsome young men

until I must flee.


Slip of a slipper

and my foot is bare, bleeding

on the sharp road home.


Home, where I weep, long

for glinting gild of fish scales,

ache for spirit touch.


I clutch fragile bones,

let them prick my fingers, wish

spirit into life.


IV. Slipper


Left behind, a shoe

of gold learns to travel,

to journey the lands.


In all peoples’ hands

the slipper bows before a

lonely island king.


V. King


Slipper in his palm,

he searches, lets maidens try

its shrinking gold size.


No fragile foot slipped

within the empty slipper

to the king’s lament.


VI. Bones


The bones, eyelash thin,

tremble in their hidden place,

sonorous and wane.

Cento of the Golden Key



Lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind, she must

transform his hands so they will be willing to twist

those shifting landscapes, the tower, the lagoon.

She sleeps under olive trees, praying for bloody bondage.

Who wouldn’t want to save her, as she arches,

curves, twines her body about the bedposts. I’ve watched you rise.

O place of lunacy, wasted treasures, squandered

heart. Squeeze it to a pulp until it becomes as cold as glass and

my first. You might ask why. Here’s why. Poetry.

The wolf, I knew, had hair the color of moons. In the pantheon

of witches and saviors, she hangs in his thoughts,

a face just drawn back from sight, a tangle,

all white hair and ribbons. Everything is about containment,

is a secret we close in a dark compartment.



Andrea Blythe and Laura Madeline Wiseman’s collaborative poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Devilfish Review, Quail Bell Magazine, Faerie Magazine, The Drowning Gull, Yellow Chair Review, Strange Horizons, Rose Red Review, Silver Blade, and the anthologies The World Retold (The Writers’ Guild of Iowa State University, 2016), Red Sky: poetry on the global epidemic of violence against women (Sable Books, 2016), Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse (Lost Horse Press, 2017), and They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing (Black Lawrence Press, 2018). Their collaborative chapbook Every Girl Becomes the Wolf is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Learn more at and

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