5 Poems by Maggie Woodward

Maggie Woodward


let me out of this cage / I need to go kill a woman / she has it coming this time / she has a name I could break / eleven months have snaked by since my mouth touched another / I’ve contorted myself / I’m grotesque with denial / you may recall you did not mention your girlfriend / before I unbraided my hair & undressed in your room / is this the story you told yourself / is this what you thought I might say / my breathing is ragged with mucus there’s always too much inside me / I feel heavy with head wounds / I feel heavy with blood / is this a holy erasure / do you miss my hospitable flesh / I’ll eat your brains if you let me / if you keep calling me kind / I’m not alive when you touch me / I’m not alive in your room / tie me down in the landfill & call forth my demons / I will bleed I will bleed I will wrench everything out / you could dismember my body & still think you know me / you’d still think my desire is contained to my cunt / but I am clean now / I’ve coughed up the sludge from inside me / I am clean now / I contain nothing / but sound


I could be the kind of girl who takes a hint but I’m not / I like myself best at my most vampiric / I think if only I were thinner / if only I were dead / I pined for you until my limbs became numb & saying your name was exhausting / the truth is I used to eat figs on Sunday mornings without remorse / without taking stock of who was looking / farewell to the me who was not afraid of men / now I cover my mouth when I’m full-body laughing / I won’t walk around town baring fangs / I’ve heard we never die in our own dreams but last night I dreamt a man took me hostage & bled me to death & when I woke I scanned my body for wounds / I want to skateboard through a graveyard wearing nothing but sneakers / I want to kiss you by the crypt with my lips glossed in blood / I could be the kind of girl who does what she wants / but let’s face it / we both know I’m not / I will always ask permission / I won’t fall asleep in your bed / I have so many dreams in which I’m screaming / my rage tamped to a diamond in my gut / yes of course I will recoil in the sunlight / will you please eat my fingertips / will you swallow my lungs / the truth is I am so careless with figs but I’d let you watch juice drip down my chin all morning


cold-blooded kill me. gut me. slash me to bits. I’m in an open field somewhere in Texas, come alone. chainsaw-massacre me. bring a hockey mask, your leather face, & I’ll wipe your knives gently when I muss them with blood. it’s October. everywhere, children get older. mothers & fathers watch as their children get older. it’s October & someone’s red teeth gnaw at a mass of veal or venison served up rare.

soon, I’ll drive past the big woods & I’ll worry that bodies might be hidden there. I worry there are bodies in the dirt that won’t ever be found. last summer, a man described his want for me as violent & I believed him to be tender. somewhere, someone is holding a baby & is not worried that the baby could die. last night, I dreamed I was trapped inside a house with the rotting corpse of my fifth-grade teacher & when I woke I got a nosebleed on my sheets.

six Octobers ago, they found her body. she was already dead. it’s October now & I worry for her mother. I worry for her father & her brother. I am worried sick for every mother. last week, someone asked me have you ever seen the face of a dead body? somewhere, someone wakes up crying & maybe it’s me—

the girl who died was named Kathleen. she grew up beautifully & her mother & father watched. one day, she stopped growing. it was October. it’s October now & I want my mother. I want my father & my sister. I need my sister little sister need my papa & my momma want my sister baby sister & my papa & my momma & my momma please let me talk to my mom it’s October. & I am ready for your nightmares. for your evil dead. I am alone in the cabin of a closed-down summer camp. I’m disturbing your peace. I’ll stay here & I’ll practice saying her name. Kathleen. hack me up, drown me, throw me to wolves. somewhere, someone thinks October is just like any other cylinder of time.


yes / I’ve lived under moonlight while no one was in love with me / I’ve been barefoot screaming fuck you at the stars / yes I’ve swallowed what I’ve swallowed & I felt it make me magic / in my head I was five inches taller & long-limbed / in my head / hair fell down my back like a fever / like kinesis

now I will martyr all things wretched with conviction / I will martyr him who fights his kind dog mean / praise be unto the ruinous / praise be unto the wolves / what I’ve put up my nose has seen the black of my brain & at night there’s only sidewalk to catch me / long live our summoning / long live our moonfaced prayers

in my head / I remain a Very Good Girl / in my head I said I love you friend & you said friend / I love you too / but I’m so dog-tired from my want / I’m so bone-tired from recalling you don’t want me / in my head / I will leave you / I will leave you alone / I will martyr all my unholy hunger / I will ask all these things in the name of the Lord /
& All God’s People Said Amen.


I wish you would touch me every time you leave a room & I wish it so much I corrode when you don't. but you don’t & you don’t & you keep forcing me to define you by absence. of course you spend your nights with another woman. do you know what I mean when I say I’m sorry? it’s not apology, it’s shame. like how it’s always too crowded to move inside my own head. like how my compass never points in discernible directions & I promise: you cannot relate. do you know how it feels to have a heart that never empties? I am all the time turning to a pillar of salt & still I wake each morning being no man’s wife. I think ‘love’ is this way I want to yell fuck you at your stupid mouth for ever daring to be beautiful so close to me.

maggie woodward is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Mississippi. she is senior editor of the Yalobusha Review & curates the Trobar Ric reading series with poet marty cain. her work has appeared or is forthcoming from Axolotl Magazine, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, the wu-wei fashion mag, The Atlas Review, & Devil’s Lake, among others. you can find her online at maggiewoodward.wordpress.com.