The Rusty Toque | Issue 11 | Poetry | November 30, 2016
GODDESS OF SMALL CREATURES
She is the goddess of small creatures because she has seen the way small creatures are abused. She still lives with the image of her stepfather carrying a blood-stained pillowcase filled with rodents into the living room. She was afraid to leave the room or look away, because she knew this performance was meant for her, so she covered her ears and hummed to herself while he beat them against the wall.
Today her housemates implore her to set traps for the mice that live inside the walls and scurry from the kitchen to her room, but she can’t bring herself to kill anything. They say mice are riddled with disease, but she thinks there are worse diseases. Being a man, for instance. But not any man. #NotAllMen. Being a man who is convinced that the ultimate expression of masculinity is violence against small creatures. And if we are not one of these men, we are small creatures.
FIVE REALMS OF THE GODDESS
She takes a hit and keeps rolling, dredges up a bed of seaweed and coral for her assailant to rest on. She cares for him. She washes the blood—her blood—from his knuckles and kisses them. She is a lover and a mother.
When he pushes her to the ground, she sinks into the cool dirt and thinks how nice it feels way down there. She spreads her fingers wide and digs her nails in, doesn’t care that she’ll have to clean them later. She breathes in the earth and kisses the dirt. She is in love with the feeling of her flesh against the ground. She is grateful that she can still feel it.
Sometimes he meets her there at just the right moment and she unfurls like a poppy, spewing sleep in every direction, unconscious, consumed, and all-consuming. Other times the door is a lock that can’t be picked, just a whole lot of frustrated fidgeting while she thinks herself into a grove of trees. She leaves no trail, no hint of where she might have gone, but she expects him to find her nonetheless. She exiles herself and blames him for the stillness of the air.
She is a hollow tree filled with ever-humming bees.
His love hits her like a hot bullet bang on time and her palms are wet with blood when they fall against the field. A witch rises from the dirt. Stone pillar. Cold bitch. She takes his bullets until she is a barrel of them. They rattle inside her as she walks across the field, slowly, toward him. The bullets grind against one another, sparking, filling her with fire, and this is where the magic begins.
HEART SPIT GHOST
I was twenty and living in Ireland when I found out my friend overdosed. Matt was always the most punk person in high school and I have two favorite memories of him from that time.
He found out this girl, named Megan or Gretchen or whatever, was going around telling everyone that I’m a cunt. I’d never met Megan or Gretchen or whatever and I wasn’t sure why she thought I was a cunt, but it bothered me that she thought this about me and I told Matt as much. One afternoon, while waiting outside school for my uncle to pick me up, Megan or Gretchen or whatever walked through the doors. Matt jumped up and ran over to her, spitting in her face so precisely that his saliva struck her right in the eye.
“Stop calling my friend a cunt,” he said, and walked away. It was the most punk thing my 16-year-old self had ever witnessed.
The second memory is more difficult to describe. It’s more of an image than a memory. It’s his hand gently patting mine in a crowded study hall. It’s his voice full of kindness because he knew terrible things were happening at home. It was my knowing that he gave me this space without expecting anything in return.
I don’t believe in haunted houses. I believe in haunted people. His ghost floated out of her mouth in the form of a scream and that is how the house knew he was dead.
GO GENTLE OR GO HOME
It’s something I learned to do when I was born.
I was out of my mother in twenty minutes,
but I was choking on bile when I came.
Is that how I am now? Quick and easy
for you, but tired from shoving
the world into my mouth.
If I had a pair of scissors, I’d cut a hole
in this town and wear it like a poncho.
When you see me on the street, hold me
like you would a skinless creature.
Everything hurts me these days.
A HAND TO HOLD, WILD AND WHAT IT SEEMS
Did we ever have quiet evenings or was it always some drunken tripping over words to the beat of an 80s pop song?
I want to see you again in that vampire bar in Baltimore, back when everything was fresh and we were too drunk to know how doomed we were.
I want to be on the dance floor with just you and our reflections in the wall of mirror glass. Dramatic ballerina twirls, us leaping across the room like we own the place before the real goths get there. The ones who were born at the right time. The ones who didn’t give up and get real jobs. The ones who still know how to dance to “This Corrosion” by Sisters of Mercy.
I wanted you to gimme the ring.
ISOBEL O'HARE is a Pushcart-nominated poet and essayist who was born in Chicago but did most of her growing up in Ireland. O'Hare is the author of the chapbooks Wild Materials (published in 2015 by Zoo Cake Press) and The Garden Inside Her (published in 2016 by Ladybox Books). She received her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she was recently awarded a Helene Wurlitzer Fellowship. She is a chapbook editor for Nomadic Press.