One for Sorrow
I awoke a magpie, dressed in black and white, blue eyes nestled
inside a cracked oyster shell. I shook off feathers, draped myself
in pearls. Dangling a glint of gold, you promised if I slipped
into fish skin, you would adorn me in jewels and marriage
would end the quarreling. Shift into someone I could love.
Broken dishes, punched pillows, unhinged shower doors
because I spoke when silence was the answer, looked
up when down was what you expected, screamed
when you pinned me in your friend’s king-sized bed
at a party. No one said anything. No one mourned
the tongue you cut out of my mouth. Twelve languages,
no way to explain why a caress on the back of my neck
reminds me of drowning, how I feel as though I fly
about the room far above the two bodies below me.
One for sorrow. Two for joy. Three for a girl.
Four for a boy. Five for silver. Six for gold.
Seven for a secret never to be told.
Juliet Killed Herself to Get Away From Romeo
He spent the whole first day of our Shakespeare lit class stealing glances, looking away when I turned his direction. We formed study groups – he made sure to sit close enough to be in mine. My heart and hymen had been broken two months before by someone else, that someone who was in love with my best friend and was “never in love” with me. He told me I was the first girl he ever said “I love you” to. I was nineteen enough to believe “I jerked off thinking about you” equated a romantic gesture. In three weeks, he asked me to prove I loved him too – tear up the dandelion your ex gave you, why do you have prom pictures with your ex on your dresser, your friends only call you when they need a ride. When my excuses weren’t enough, I became too busy to hang out with anyone he didn’t like. He wanted me to keep my phone on me at all times in case something happened to the kittens and I need to get a hold of you. I believed the intensity of this love meant we were the archetype of romance – his screeching at me that I was a slut because he wasn’t my first, his fists punching the ceiling of my car for looking over my left shoulder twice because I thought I recognized the man walking down the street from class, how he changed his life plans to perfectly imitate mine. I ignored his stories from his time in the Navy of dating girls barely above the age of consent, no matter how much closer to thirty he got. I ignored the hackles on my neck when he first came over for dinner. I look back at that moment and scream at the screen kick him out make him go make him go now say no trust that feeling it’s a bad idea make him go make him go – then spent two years trying to understand why. The night I broke up with him for the third (final) time, I slept in my car on campus so someone would at least find my body.
Rachel Anna Neff has written poetry since elementary school and has notebooks full of half-written novels. She earned her doctorate in Spanish literature and is currently working on her MFA thesis. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Dirty Chai magazine, by Dos Gatos Press, and by Hyacinth Girl Press.