B Y   J E N N I F E R   P E R R I N E 


you became what I wanted most: ghost child, wishful
thought. No longer the fear that what I’d brought 

into the world, I might destroy. No girl, no boy, no 
androgynous quick wit or longhaired shy quietness 

curled beside me on the couch. No shouts, no whimpers 
or cries, no whines to sleep in my bed on cold nights, 

no asking to keep on the lights when dark is too much. 
No touch. No caress, no nuzzle at my breast, no search 

for the nipple. No nagging when you refuse to clean 
your room, no hours pacing, dread and doom, no chasing 

you down, no finding you hiding at a friend’s house, 
at the bar where you’re not carded when you sneak out. 

No naming of colors, body parts. No months-long art
of choosing a name. No pulling dimes lodged in nostrils,

bugs from your mouth. No mouth to drool, to spit. No shit, 
no piss, accidental and everywhere. No worries. No cares. 

W H E N   T H E  D O C T O R   S A I D ,     I T ' S   T O O   L A T E   


We’ve jabbed pine branches into all the walls
so the clan can perch among evergreens, 
their bright scented barbs. The uncles hunker 
over the carcass, grease on their talons 

and tongues. One flails his wings, warbles woman,
how long did you cook this? The whole skin’s charred.

The aunts circle, keep their distance, keen claws 
encased in oven mitts. One eyes her son,

newly sprung from his cage upstate, chatting 
up the chick who put him away. She stares
at her plate, empty save the olive pits
she spits, clutch of shriveled eggs. The children

brood in a corner of the room, where feed  
sputters from the TV, thick with foxes 
the young ones all want to be. I pluck
at my mate, sing of how it’s getting late,

yet hours pass before we nudge our last kin
out the door, watch them fly off, east and west.
Beneath the lintel littered with holly,
we unfurl, at home in our empty nest.

Jennifer Perrine is the author of, most recently, No Confession, No Mass, winner of the 2016 Publishing Triangle Audre Lorde Award and the 2014 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. Previous books include In the Human Zoo, recipient of the 2010 Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize, and The Body Is No Machine, winner of the 2008 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Poetry. Perrine lives in Portland, Oregon.

B Y   J E N N I F E R   P E R R I N E 

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