Take the splintered memory of your father beating you from between your mother’s clenched teeth. If you can still hear his voice, go west. You will come to a ditch cradling a dead cat. If his neck is twisted, proceed north. If his belly is split open like a rotten orange under a motorcycle wheel, go south; you will find the driver’s bloody bootprints scuffing the Black-Eyed-Susans. If you mix the pollen with loose-leaf tobacco and roll a cigarette, your doppelgänger in another universe will be gifted a front row seat to the next public execution. But that is not the direction you want to go. If you ignore me and walk towards the old Civil War battlefield marked with the city’s slapdash attempts at historical preservation, your old lovers, wherever they are, will turn pail as if a nurse has taken too much life force away from the abrasive latticework of a failed experimental procedure. You taste blood in your mouth. They will fall to the floor and you will not be there to kiss the languor from their eyelashes. If you don’t see a dead cat, continue west as if nothing is wrong. You will eventually come to a fork in the road. Or a river. And you must either cut off all your hair or throw your clothes into the Salvation Army donation bin that washed up on the riverbank with the rest of the hurricane detritus and proceed with your own body acting as a trembling neophyte’s compass pointing towards the sharpest point away. If fear clamps down on you so hard your ribs creak and snap against your heart, you can choose a different direction. You can run, screaming, back home or you can try to walk on water.

She is an open jewelry box

singing, a wasp flutter

harmonizes with sibilance

against the garishness

of that tree’s

TOUCH ME AND DIE!

One eye is the fractured blue of an

abalone shell, the other cormorant

shine stopped dead,

wings helpless against her temple.

The alabaster lid of her skin

splits like a poached egg,

bold entrails drip gracefully and

she takes the apple,

doesn’t care a corpse cannot eat.

Photo Source: Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art, Memphis TN

The declaration

is so soft

no one notices and

when our breath catches

in our wine swollen throats

we wonder how

such debauchery

could have snuck in.

For my birthday

I asked for a 12

pack of toilet paper

and a sturdy pair of boots.

The first to fight

the ration shortage,

the second to fight

standing still.

For your birthday

the state of Virginia

banned oral sex

along with all the other

crimes

against

nature so I

sent you a picture

of me

pleasuring

the turkey blaster.

We still manage to see

fireworks even though

they are not

really fireworks.

In some distant

country not yet at war

with us the arches

of a cathedral crack.

I make an altar

out of pilfered bird

bones by the river

you will never see again.

Five tornadoes

touch down inside

the cradle

of a 10 mile radius.

We all raise

our arms

but we cannot

hear each other scream.

This is my arm

I hurt it when I

jumped across the creek

and fell.

You are not allowed to jump

across the creek.

Neither am I.

This is my shoulder,

dislocated after I bought

a train ticket.

I am not allowed to buy a train ticket.

This is my shirt.

It was torn as a shirt

gets torn

when its wearer meets

an incoherent,

violent yearning.

Look for my eye,

it went missing as I was

leaving the theatre.

I am not allowed to see.

This is a revised version for my poetry collection, Lupercalia. This poem first appeared in The Idle Class, Aug. 2014. Read the original, previous version here. (Written as Jessica Forest)

Is it your desire to destroy

the sleeping city tucked away

beneath the mockingbird’s broken wing?

There are not just mouths,

there are not just eyes and thighs

asleep inside.

Swallows get swallowed.

Doves lock Peace away inside themselves,

secret and safe in their iron hearts.

Crows attack the sky

and

fall.

The mockingbird tries to fly

and the city falls

heavy with wishes and dreams.

There are not just hands,

there are not just tongues and names

in love with words your

language wants to destroy.

Stolen fairy tale girls never get to take the easy way.

—SJ Tucker Girl Into Devil (I Belong to Me)

When you say princess you mean little girl lost in the darkness, rotting lace and wind whistling through bleach blonde bones. Only decay loves a dead girl walking. But when you see this princess tearing through the brambles like she’s on fire don’t even think about getting in her way. She’s got better things to do than talk to you, like reclaim her mother’s severed hands from the evil king next door. Or steal lightning from a storm to give to a witch who will make her the sword she needs to kill the other evil king next door. Or kill her father, who is the other, other evil king, for trying to marry her three hours after giving her mother to the flames because she looks just like her mother and, you know, bloodlines need preservation. If you see her meeting her sisters for a party (after a quick detour involving pomegranates and 6 months of winter) where they grind their 6-inch stilettos down to the floor and throw their hearts at whoever they want, you’d be stupid not to praise her beauty and bravery. She has already learned that princes don’t just pop up out of the woods promising kingdoms and kisses without getting a promise back and if you’re not selling what she wants be careful or you might find yourself in a world where you’re another evil king on her hit list and she’s gunning for her happily ever after.