Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Erin Adair-Hodges







How about this moon? How it dangles like a bob
at the top of a dark lake we swim in.
                                                            It’s so beautiful
all the young smash their mirrors, run in packs
to catch its light.
                                    One winter
I kept getting caught in soldiers’ arms, and knowing
what they’d done with them
                        made me feel safe,
which meant I could not trust myself.
                                                Something had to be done
so I moved to Ohio
            but before I left the desert
a fortune teller foresaw me in white,
mail in my hand, my red hair turned to flame.

                        Or was it a white male in my hand, my fair name
                        At some point, one group of my ancestors
            conquered another group of my ancestors
and stole the words my body still dreams in.

In Ohio, there are red birds, hiding out from nothing.

Every time my brother dies, he apologizes, which is funny
because he’s not even a woman.
                                    I’m the dummy
who keeps forgiving him. I think of stopping
                                                            so he’ll get well
and my anger will have finally saved somebody.

            At my windows, the young paw, mistaking my light for moon.
My hand at the glass erases their eyes.
                                    It’s a gesture so kind I could die.



Self-Portrait as Erinyes


Unzip me from this winter, come
unbog what’s left of this flesh.

Snakes? Floss for teeth that ring the tongues
turned stone when they cursed my name.

I am fearsome and I do not need to be saved
but that doesn’t mean

I’m not waiting for something to happen.
My to-do list is long and names names.

If you think you’re the you I’m thinking of,
let that be the first miracle we make together

alive at the same time here on Earth.
Sometimes, you have to invent the body

you’ll be happy in. I was born too much
of everything, but now I’m a kind of pin

prized for crucifying wings, fringing cilia
when you grab me and stab the beautiful thing

to keep it from leaving. The peace you feel
as I shine behind glass, the sting

of your finger singing out blood. Every poem I write
ends up the same—I want you then I’ll want you

gone. I am trying to tame my humanness
but like a cat it claws back, hunger

the only language it knows, so come,
boat. Be brave. The ocean was the ocean

before you thought to sail it, and still
it thrills at your sloop, the moan you make

when it takes you, loving you to sleep
on the dark night of its floor.



Panic Attack at Applebee’s

                        for AB


So many ways to eat a chicken
in this temple
to the potato’s infinite faces.

Nothing washes away these days.
The flesh fried on the bone weighs
my skin and sheets. My cats are always hungry,

fanged banshees mewling for their rightful dead.
They teach me to yowl, to put my breast into it,
feel it push past a language that has done me no good

so far. I darling the wrong order back,
sweetheart the meat well-done.

There is no suffering of violins—
The programmed music loops.

A god could not sleep, now here I am, pulled full-grown
from the margarita machine—I’m slush-blooded,
sweet enough to rot. I have no other mother,

no country but section six, so named because of how many
televisions can be seen. The best seats are full
of adrenaline visions, the worst ones witness the windows

to the parking lot and past that
the highway, its black rumors of places

past the corn, but the road away leads
only here, and here,
and here.


Photograph of Erin Adair-Hodges by Cleo Rathburn.

Erin Adair-Hodges is the author of Let’s All Die Happy, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. Recipient of The Sewanee Review’s Allen Tate Prize and the Loraine Williams Prize from The Georgia Review, her work has been featured in such places as PBS NewsHour, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and more. Born and raised in New Mexico, she is now an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Central Missouri and the co-editor for Pleiades. More from this author →