​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L

B R E N D A   M A N N   H A M M A C K

Brenda Mann Hammack is an associate professor of English of Fayetteville State University. She also leads online workshops in fairy tale and magic realism at The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative and The Eckleburg Workshops. She is managing editor for Glint Literary Journal. Hammack's poetry and fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals including Menacing Hedge, Gargoyle Magazine, Mudlark, Papercuts, Elsewhere Lit, Bone Bouquet, and A capella Zoo.

​S E C R E T   G A R D E N 

                                after the painting by Heather Nevay



My skirt is not a hedge, or fort by Fabergé.  
Little brother, once removed, you’ll catch 
your death adventuring so. You shouldn’t
shoot your favorite marbles outside 
of ring. You never know what lurks
beneath embroidered leaves, 
what worms placate
carnivorous crows.

For robin’s breast is red from sacrifice.
And, little lambkins, the Bible shows
that boys are meant to test their elders’
faith. And mine is feeling ill-
disposed. So, take your wood 
and woolen wheeled toy 
far away from petti-
coats. Abandon 

hope like Dante bids before you trespass
in my wardrobe. You will not find a cat’s
eye aggie, or clot of glassie, ox-blood 
globe. Nor will you hear Herr 
Mahler’s birdsong. You will not
find the Holy Ghost. Mein
kleines Lamm
. My dear
scapegoat. Beware

of straying into chamber forbidden 
to the undergrown. You’ll stain
lace blue with forget-me coat. 
You will not find my diary’s home. 
And, if you did, you could not know 
Valencia orange from blood-
red rose. These ribbons 
I wear aren’t marigold. 

Some secrets only women know. 
These petals I press aren’t pirate’s trove. 
You cannot understand what’s pinched 
my nipples out of flatness so take 
your toys to Barbary Coast. It’s safer 
now that I am grown. Boys must not 
enter private gardens. Love-
lies-bleeding under clothes.