Mrs. Dahmer By Sierra Demulder

I caught you once,
killing a squirrel in our back yard with a rock.
Your 8-year-old body shivering, illuminated.
Through tears, you told me you loved it.
I assumed you meant the squirrel.

Even after I watched the news—
clips of a 10 gallon blue vat being carried out of your building,
your refrigerator sealed with police tape,
pictures of the boys you kissed too hard.
Even after I heard what they found in your refrigerator,
(two human heads and a heart in your freezer)
I could not bring myself to call you a monster.

Your father told the reporters
when I was pregnant with you, I experienced seizure-like fits,
foaming at the mouth. My swollen body would stiffen and
and my eyes would peel back like paint
as if I were trying to look at you.

The day your apartment building was gutted and paved over,
I began to obsess over your baby pictures, looking for anything
that could predict the way you learned to love seeing things inside out.
I held them close to my face as if some of the innocence could rub off.

Your brother legally changed his last name from Dahmer,
but I cannot erase the stretch marks. I still see your eyes in my mirror.
The scar where they pulled you like Persephone from my stomach.

There is no reminiscing here.
No one wants to hear how you were a wonderful child.
They only want to watch your car crash of a life on repeat.
Your adolescent obsession with road kill—
how you would bike for miles with a garbage bag filled with
whatever cadavers you found on the street.
How could I possibly not see this coming, they say.

Did I squeeze you too tightly when we crossed the street?
Child, when your father and I fought at night, did you mistake it for lovemaking?
Did I teach those fingers to pluck families apart like flower petals?
(I love you, I love you still.)
Darling, was it the sound of the dead dog’s bones as your father
dropped them one by one into the bucket that seduced you?
Did it sound too much like your pulse?
Was it the day I drove away from you—
freshly graduated from high school,
2 months premature of your first murder.
Did I put too many states between us?
Did you put your own heart in the freezer,
next to the thought of me?

Would Mary be forsaken if Jesus had not grown
to be the son god had intended to father?
If he did not wear a crown of thorns
but instead, wrapped it around his knuckles.
Will I be forgiven for the sins I did not commit, but created?
When you were small, i told you
you can grow up to be anything.

Love, Forgive Me
After Rachel McKibbens
My sister told me a soul mate is not the person
who makes you the happiest but the one who
makes you feel the most. Who conducts your heart

to bang the loudest. Who can drag you giggling
with forgiveness from the cellar they locked you in.
It has always been you. You are the first

person I was afraid to sleep next to,
not because of the fear you would leave
in the night but because I didn’t want to wake up

ungracefully. In the morning, I crawled over
your lumbering chest to wash my face and pinch
my cheeks and lay myself out like a still-life

beside you. Your new girlfriend is pretty
like the cover of a cookbook. I have said her name
into the empty belly of my apartment. Forgive me.

When I feel myself falling out of love with you,
I turn the record of your laughter over, reposition
the needle. I dust the dirty living room of your affection.

I have imagined our children. Forgive me. I made up
the best parts of you. Forgive me. When you told me
to look for you on my wedding day, to pause

on the alter for the sound of your voice
before sinking myself into the pond of another
love, forgive me. I mistook it for a promise.

Paper Dolls By Sierra Demulder

We are taught
from the moment we leave our pink nursery
that we are collapsable paper dolls
light to hold
easier to crumple. 
that as women our worth lies secretly wrapped in lace and cotton panties
our fragility armored with pepper spray and mace, they say:

ONE IN TEN. ONE IN SIX. ONE IN THREE
women will be raped or sexually abused in her lifetime

and I am one of three daughters.

You weren’t just violated, we tell her
You are an empty museum
A gutted monument to what used to hold so much worth
And with the best intentions we tell her to reclaim it,
Put a price tag on her rape and own it,
But don’t stand too tall, don’t act too strong
or we will name you denial, come back when you’re ready to crumble
Like your bones are made of chalk
You may only laugh or cry beautifully
So cry beautifully

We are calling it theft 
As if he could pluck open your ribs like cello strings
Pocket your breasts, steal what makes your heart flutter and tack its wings to his wall,
Some days you will feel dirty!
Some days you’ll remember how hard it is to breathe in public, like your heart beat is climbing to the attic of your throat only to suicide itself out on the pavement
But know this: the person who did this to you is broken, not you.
The person who did this to you is out there, somewhere choking on the glass of his chest, it is a windsheild, and his heart is a baseball bat saying wreck this, wreck this
NOTHING WAS STOLEN FROM YOU. 

Your body is not a hand-me-down
There is nothing that sits inside you holding your worth,
no locket that can be seen or touched, sucked from your stomach and left on the concrete 

And I know sometimes it’s hard to feel perfect
when you can’t tell an adam’s apple from a fist
because some ashtray of a man forced you to play his eden.

but I will not
watch you
collapse. 

Unrequited Love Poem By Sierra DeMulder

You will be out with friends
when the news of her existence
will be accidentally spilled all over
your bar stool. Respond calmly
as if it was only a change in weather,
a punch line you saw coming.
After your fourth shot of cheap liquor,
leave the image of him kissing another woman
in the toilet.

In the morning, her name will be
in every headline: car crash, robbery, flood.
When he calls you, ignore the hundreds of ropes
untangling themselves in your stomach.
You are the best friend again. He invites
you over for dinner and you say yes
too easily. Remind yourself this isn’t special,
it’s only dinner, everyone has to eat.
When he greets you at the door, do not think
for one second you are the reason
he wore cologne tonight.

In his kitchen, he will hand-feed you
a piece of red pepper. His laugh
will be low and warm and it will make you
feel like candlelight. Do not think this is special.
Do not count on your fingers the number
of freckles you could kiss too easily.
Try to think of pilot lights and olive oil,
not everything you have ever loved about him,
or it will suddenly feel boiling and possible
and so close. You will find her bobby pins
laying innocently on his bathroom sink.
Her bobby pins. They look like the wiry legs
of spiders, splinters of her undressing
in his bed. Do not say anything.
Think of stealing them, wearing them
home in your hair. When he hugs you goodbye,
let him kiss you on the forehead.
Settle for target practice.

At home, you will picture her across town
pressing her fingers into his back
like wet cement. You will wonder
if she looks like you, if you are two bedrooms
in the same house. Did he fall for her features
like rearranged furniture? When he kisses her,
does she taste like wet paint?

You will want to call him.
You will go as far as holding the phone
in your hand, imagine telling him
unimaginable things like you are always
ticking inside of me and I dream of you
more often than I don’t.
My body is a dead language
and you pronounce
each word perfectly.

Do not call him.
Fall asleep to the hum of the VCR.
She must make him happy.
She must be
She must be his favorite place in Minneapolis.
You are a souvenir shop, where he goes
to remember how much people miss him
when he is gone.

Some Like It Hot By Sierra DeMulder

“Hollywood’s a place where
they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for kiss,
and fifty cents for your soul.”
­—Marilyn­Monroe

It took the embalmer three days to prepare your body.

He removed a half moon of flesh from the base
of your hairline; sutured it as tight as your corset
to reduce the postmortem swelling of your pretty little neck.
Those infamous breasts deflated as a result of the autopsy.
Under your favorite chartreuse dress, you were stuffed
like a doll with scraps of cotton.

Marilyn, you were our first wet dream, our first taste of sweat.
Your lips pursed like two virgins shivering in anticipation.
We knew you were a good kisser just by looking at you –
the kind of woman who made wives dig their nails
into the forearms of their husbands.

When did you start believing you looked better in photographs?

You were found naked in bed, clutching a telephone,
flat-line dial tone singing you to sleep.
We all pretended you were trying to call us.