Mama made me a vagabond
and Mama, she made me certain
of my unhappiness. Cutting rhubarb
at the counter, the kitchen in savage
light. What will become of you, 
Mama, your silver hands? 

I’ve been ill, wrapped in oleander
and struggling in the water. 
What a terrible way to love. 
The stillness is you, Mama, 
the giving up. This deep pool
and the algid bottom.




It’s not safe here, we’ll say
to each other, our hands
not quite touching, the rattle
of that low flame not yet quiet.
We’re good for nothing. 

The house around us settled
into its ash and we let it. 

We’ll be as hornets,
big in our winter blood,
and move discordant through
what’s left of our mother.
Her apothecary jars, 
those long brown vials, 
fractured by the heat.
Small blue beads melted
in their silver castings. 
A wolf pelt turned to shadow. 

Her fever is massive and mean
against us. We take our sharp
little breaths of soot and venom, 
watch our skin turn red. Every welt
looks like lace, and we wear it.

She’s given us this cruelty
towards ourselves.

Jessica Bixel is somewhere in Michigan. She is a recent Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee and her work can be found in Best New Poets 2015, Whiskey Island, Wildness, and Grist Journal, among others.