Science tells us silence
is the safest way to signal
fear. Like the deer flocking
at the bottom of the garden
turning all the mirrored eyes
at once. But tonight,
the talking doll is telling
secrets. Unraveling an
iridescent tongue of tape from
her smooth spine.
I am afraid to have children.
To shit the birthing bed
and then fail them over and over.
The talking doll knows all
little girls are lonely. She knows
what it is like under the bed
with the dust. The apricot down
of a childhood, lost, fuzzing the skin
under her little polyester shirt
and between her smooth plastic legs.
I am afraid of something crawling back in
A spider in the bed at night,
A hand walking over on its
creased fingers, nails crescented
like a moon mirrored in a dark lake.
The talking doll wonders if there
is anything left in the world that could
surprise her. She knows about
the drowned daddy long legs
in the shower—the way I angled
the spray against it even
though I knew its mouth
was too small for my skin.
TERROR MADE ME CRUEL
the ghost licks my finger with its salt-sand tongue.
the ghost takes a chisel to the workings of my throat.
the ghost puts its tongue in my mouth. reaches
for the false tooth of tomb-honey.
the ghost wrings the wrist’s neck.
the ghost feeds me lamb-heart. wants to know
can I feel it. the beating.
the ghost calls my phone when I am busy
fucking someone else. the ghost leaves a message.
the ghost’s message says is his body like my body. does it know what you like?
the ghost taps two fingers on my stomach.
the two within tap back.
the barrier between ghost and ghost is slight.
the ghost tells me to dress for the weather.
the ghost tells me I need to eat more.
I smell of the ghost’s mouth.
the ghost has my lipstick on its myriad strings of teeth.
the ghost has never done this with a woman before.
the ghost has slept with 27 women. the ghost is imprecise.
the ghost tells me I just don’t understand ghosts.
the ghost tells me I got blood on its bedspread. that I need to pay
for the broken window. I tell the ghost about my dream. the habitual
leather of a bat in the throat. the phantom limb I lean on.
the ghost doesn’t give a shit about my childhood.
the ghost wants me to ask about its day.
the ghost does not want to tell me about its day.
the ghost puts its hand into my mouth.
the ghost puts my hand into my mouth. piece by dripping piece.
You call and say “I know you misbehaved.”
I am in bed with him, the dog chewing
a hole in your grey sweater, my back caved
in, its pale taut thread, snapped. He’s undoing
my breath, dropping my stitches. Ravel, rend.
In a South Jersey ward my grandma bites
through the tip of her finger. She pretends
to recall my recorded voice, rewrites
our love song: you a soldier, me a nurse.
Her brain’s slow tangle of blood, dark hair left
on the pillow. I drown your lack in verse,
in cock, you call five times while I’m possessed.
She thinks I send you letters at the front,
your only epistle this voicemail: “you cunt.”
H.R. Webster is an MFA candidate at the University of Michigan. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Five Quarterly, Devil's Lake, Canary, and elsewhere.