by Christen Noel Kauffman


Sometimes, I think you put the demon inside
my esophagus so you’d have something to watch.

Look there she goes, the cat who attacks her young,
the violence of a beak pecking only the exposed eyes,

a caiman inflating her underdeveloped jaws.
When I worshipped your pierced hands, your body

the blood I sipped into my mouth, I thought goodness
was a human trait, this need to devour a temporary rush

I could stop with the Easter Lilies I birth every spring.
When my husband asks me to pray, I think about crows

in a black patch against clouds, the empty pail
we found on the beach and I was the only one who cried.

I think I should never be a wife, but this secret is hung
with another planet’s moons, somewhere out of reach

tied to ghosts I ignore for their familiar ways to love
from a distance, from the parapet with half an open heart.

I tell him I want to be hurt on my own terms, his hand
print just like that, hard enough to feel the milk snake shed

her skin. I’m silent in the ways I’m ill-equipped to love
and so are you, the reason I once believed you could be mine.


CHRISTEN NOEL KAUFFMAN lives in Richmond, Indiana with her husband and two daughters. Her hybrid chapbook Notes to a Mother God (forthcoming, 2021) was a winner of the Paper Nautilus Debut Chapbook Series. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in A Harp in the Stars: An Anthology of Lyric Essays (University of Nebraska Press), Nimrod International Journal, Tupelo Quarterly, The Cincinnati Review, Willow Springs, DIAGRAM, Booth, Smokelong Quarterly, Hobart, and The Normal School, among others.


Photo: “Easter Lily” by Rick Harris