Rumpus Original Poetry: Four Poems by Leah Claire Kaminski





True crime

really all I want to watch are dead women
and how they got that way    look
in the air pockets of their joints
smooth my fingers
through the soft bone of socket, find
why we hated them like trace
evidence         I want to watch
dead women because I am an almost-dying
woman            when I hear of the local girl
who stomach chopped into like
a melon was then
looted of her fetal son I know
what it’s like to be a carrier
for my fetal son          when I hear of the woman
bound and raped for being someone’s
neighbor I am always almost
being killed for being someone’s
neighbor         how many almost-rapes
have you lived through?         how
many times your life spared
by a father-uncle because of nothing
but the vagaries of his
own interior?             whoever told you
you could have your own?     I’ve decamped
to my own interior and it
is disobedient             in the car
today I told myself what
I value            as if I police my own boundaries
according to my own laws      it was disobedient
we are probably          not all like this
but I am           I came home
and watched a true crime show
eating lunch    I don’t usually cry for the women
but I’m crying now      almost-
life       the way we learn to fit our containers


Stay at home

crows like screams
& warble of squirrel
plane overhead
feet thump on floorboard

the ferns grow white
the humus grows cool, smooth, wet, white
threads of root find blind

passage and one afternoon I push down a tree
it is a pine tree and it’s dead and I rock it
with my whole palms
roots grunt from under layers
of earth and mulch and leaf
it kills a young oak
and the view to the neighboring hill is not better


acres away
where the crows are
is water
small streams I dream about, dream
drowning, dream
my younger bodies


on dark days in the gray humid beauty of the summer
it’s dark there, and wet, and time is closing in:

butterflies land on my head with their white bands,
moth-bodies plump and buzzing
wet breathy trumpet of the unafraid deer
black ants bulbous

they all take on evil, flit about in it
but it’s just us
it makes me want to destroy myself
literally I mean
to pluck out my teeth
singe each lobe of lung
and leaving, kick my sweet lover in the gut


“Maybe memory is all the home / you get”

maybe the home you get / is all memory maybe all the memory you get / is home baby
your first home is my memory / & isn’t our first our always / don’t we
always find the womb don’t we / crave what’s close after days breathing
in the wide open / your home is my memory / bodied first / cramp first orgasm first kick
to the gut / whatever womb holds of my pre-sex body
you’re in it / body that’s done all of it / you’re closer to it than I with my
outside hands and skin have been/ my body / off limits /
you drown me in it / when I feel you it feels like terror / & the wall
of the uterus as a movie screen playing
the current life of my body / you kick away from my loudest growls
like a jump scare / the current life of my body rehearses my old wounds / is a secret
to me is / rehearsing in the dark / playing out
horror in the small / round / tension in my hips / secretions gurgle quiet
as blood trickle / wiped off yesterday / or an ache in the jaw that
doesn’t leave a bruise / tightness in my chest / my breath
its shallow hitch / teaches you that breath is for keeping quiet / that home is for playing


(Title is a line from “Mercy, Mercy, Me” by John Murillo.)



rain last night
bulbs now
spring ground
near spongy

gray     brown
white   like the plug
in a Bahia Honda toilet
trailer toilet after Irma

on the bright hot day
turquoise white wasted
in worry: fleshy little
teardrop, big

as my first thumbjoint smeared
with clear mucus it
was gray brown white

some dark red
I thought it was a polyp
they’d told me my body
was making them

cervix in overdrive
so I figured my body
was expelling them
to make room for more

in my body
like it will the fetus
that will be a baby
but then after all it was
probably my mucus plug

because lesion
was the word in the cold
day in the cold
suburban hospital back north so—

and those don’t fall off                       lashed on
my objective correlative
little brain I could flick you
like a marble

my lesion soft like spring
flat-topped plateau
quiet on my cervix
that squeezable neck


Photograph of Leah Claire Kaminski courtesy of Leah Claire Kaminski.

Leah Claire Kaminski is the author of three chapbooks: Differential diagnosis from the Santa Anas (Harbor Editions, 2022), Root (Milk and Cake Press, 2022), and Peninsular Scar (Dancing Girl Press). Poems appear in Bennington Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner, ZYZZYVA, and elsewhere. Winner of the Summer Literary Seminars Grand Prize and finalist for the WICW fellowships, Leah grew up in South Florida and now lives in Chicago. Get in touch at More from this author →