eve googles ‘woman found’ 

the body of a woman, dance major, found in the creek on the college campus. the body of a woman on a beach, loose muscle forearms flapping the sand. woman with her pants around her ankles in a parking lot. woman whose breathless skin was prismatic in snowmelt. the sum of a woman in a grain elevator. wrapped in a rug in a trunk. behind the hotel ice maker. food court of a mall. headless in a driveway. whose slit throat bloomed black. with restraining order papers in her pocket. hands and feet duct-taped together. drained of blood. sloppily hacked. artfully halved. chained to a shipping container. covered in bullfrogs in the quarry. a face missing the back of its head.

shannon ratliff

 

god’s always trying to get these hands 

around things. today, the honey butter chicken biscuit. 

shannon ratliff

 

maggie drops acid on tuesday 

wonder in the world woven with death and heat. the devil with the blue body, it was the son with two blue eyes. once i wore a yellow polka dot bikini to swim in them and back again. these days it’s that devil on the dawn shoreline, offering up iridescent wrists to the sunbeams. my mouth watered for the sea soil in those long loping veins. the body of a sturgeon landed heavy and flat in the shallows. that’s what the end of the world sounds like magdalene, he said. where does it start, i asked the bathtub.

shannon ratliff


eve tries bumble

say you were born into the evening of your life.

a slit in spacetime and when the minutes unfolded just so, the veil blew back and the scent of what you’d been losing all these years, silphium and smoke and the long curving line of his back to flatten into at night.

to follow him to the edge of the river, falling on bent knees in the tidewater and skin sliced by shells in the tide pools. all that’s left of the two of you, red. 

shannon ratliff

 

god takes his summer bod for a spin

bowel movements are most challenging. how do you let it all go, he mutters. no one told him the wrapper comes off the summer sausage. 

shannon ratliff

 

a body wears its welcomes

if one death is surmountable, what of the second? the third, the sixtieth, the hundredth, the thousandth. transgressions of life fused at the waist early and grown long apart.  mary magdalene, he said standing on the sharp grass past my doorstep. a breeze slithered through city grid and over his left shoulder, rattling light. his left hand on the door frame, electric emptiness in place of the ring finger. mary? maggie these days. 

shannon ratliff

 

on criminalistics

no television shows based on real events or motion pictures of hometown girls murdered like sparkling stars you could wish on and be glad it wasn’t you. the found women saw no stars, bodies picked up by police hands weary of the forensics ahead. numb to the blood, the woman bone, the hair clumps that had fallen out in stress in the corners of the shed of the home she herself owned when the man took her prisoner in it. he’d dug the seven-foot pit in night with noise drowned out by the highway and here, empty shed floor giving way into a grave in a room on her property she never bothered to visit until her body was shoved inside it, ankle snapping on the rim of the pit as her forearms broke into bone mosaics against her back.

shannon ratliff

 

of course cassandra won’t sleep with apollo

serpentine this humming — strangling him to swallow whole for a reptilian turnstile of overexposed dreams and this searing heat my skin begs to meet. we kept four ways to know the world on our tongues. wondrous scale body and carved deep into snouts, whispers of distant warm prey. dried grass, feet-worn limestone, a sly little hole of four-limbed babes. land forks into heres and theres on long slick tongues. 

shannon ratliff

 

when’d you cut cable, eve

under those splitting fluorescent fitting room lights trying on this skinny red leather choker, in the mirror was the woman whose throat was slit in the grocery store parking lot during the golden hour a few summers back. remember her, right in the middle of town. the news caught flak for panning over the stain. yes that’s what they said, a deep fresh oil stain where the stolen car’d been. town seemed to agree the golden hour was still broad daylight. no, it wasn’t oil, was it. 

shannon ratliff

 

god names necessary evils at a dinner party

twisters over the prairie, curling grasses churning up crunchy cricket corpses. the turned ankle collection of a hole in the ground. a silent swarm of mosquitoes while making love by the river. half an airplane wing still smoking in the pool. chalk body screaming down a board. thoughtless sparks in the brush, the right wind and evergreen trees. scalpels poised over wombs, coyote teeth in dog legs, boiling water baptisms, manmade lakes, saltwater crocodiles, bags of dead baby sea turtles, black ice, an asking kind of ache. 

shannon ratliff