Poet: Evan J. Peterson, Seattle, WA

Editor Staff, Poetry, February 18th, 2011


Smalldoggies Poetry Feature #11: Evan J. Peterson, Seattle, WA
Selections from an unpublished book, narrated by Frankenstein’s monster.


Drive-In Palimpsest


Well, color me puce. Or better yet,
chartreuse. The blush into stain
pigment: a different sort of spectral.

My cut cross fade dissolve transition
from library to silver screen
has been predictable unpleasant.

Self-obsessed palimpsest, I have names
scratched over names, dented pages,
fogged frames. “Warhol” over

“Morrissey.” “Shelley” across “Godwin.”
“Walton” over “Frankenstein”
over nothing I have no name.
Incest is stricken from the record,

the bridal cousin now adopted orphan,
and the politics drowned in the bay.
They rewrite correct me like history,

like Texas textbooks. The whole
of human knowledge—reduced
to a pop-up book of figments folktales.

Books were always three-dimensional
Even books become three-dimensional
at the All-Night American Drive-In.
Good teenagers, put on your 3-D glasses

and take off them clothes. Your eyes:
mismatched as mine now, one blue,
one red as a Communist Martian.

I never spoke French freely.
I used to be Swiss British somebody.
Well, pop my stitches. Crack my fat.

+ + +

The Black Dahlia Review
Elizabeth Short, aspiring actress, murder victim,
and surrealist sculpture, 1947, Anonymous


Oh, the perils of show biz. The illusionist slipped,
sawed you beyond the help of magic. Shudder, kick-
step. Thighs peppery with dried blood. Behold a line
of paper dolls, a cancan, half the chorus girls, but not
one high heel gone from the footlights. Check that
Chelsea grin, razored in like Man Ray ironing. So,
Elizabeth. Your star has risen, headlines made, face
a work of art. The papers scream: Werewolf Murder!
Rave reviews. Dear girl, what rough beasts have run
their train on you? What comb of eye-teeth dragged
through your silken hair? Now the she-wolf suckles
no cubs, teats cut out like front page news. Your life
in Grand Guignol. A haruspex got to you and sprang
your entrails, but what did he divine? Occult blood.
A splash of local fame. Just look at all the men lined
up to see you this morning. Get ready, Elizabeth.
Here we go: lights; cameras; grin.

+ + +

The Bandage Motif


It sneaks up on you like brain cancer:
the Bandage Motif,
the mutating score.

Notes prick silence,
a soft sting at first,
then they strike like a branding iron.

A pattern emerges like a handful of teeth
finding their sockets back in the mouth,
staccato assembled to sense.

Most scenes call for quiet,
blank tablature waiting like a bride,
ready to pique the staff
with shrieks.
No tidy montage.

Record the score in a private lab, trombones
and snares, so it feels
like you’ve been run through with brass.

The hammers of the harpsichord
could break your jaw.

Suffering is incidental;
incidental sounds
spring up like jets of fluid:
of electricity,
distant howl of penned mastiffs,
klonk of iron
chains as thick as a child’s leg.
Whip crack, jangle, rasp,
groan of the ceiling’s collapse.

Give us a merry melody, the thud
of smashing
insects and the squelch
of organ

God loves, man kills.
This, my darkmotif.
Fingers fall away; I’ll play
the tune with my toes.

With my tongue.

I’ll beat the drum with stumps.

+ + +

The Creature Confesses


They claim I fear the fire.
I am the salamander!
They claim I eat their children.
I shit no little toenails!
They claim I murdered everyone
my father ever loved.

His baby brother– not my thumb
on that white neck, despite
his grieving rants. I did not kill Clerval,
his death the work of Irish thugs
(no small coincidence).
Elizabeth, my father’s doll,

oh yes, I did kill her.
You bet your hands I did.
She strangled little William
and framed the nurse to lure
her lover back into red arms.
I returned that harm.

I’m decent; it was quick.
I held her by her maiden face
and popped her like a whip.
To know the breathlight glow,
then snuff it, hear the wheeze
and cease– we two

had much in common then.
I reached into her chest,
as Father reached in me,
and took that part of her
he loved the best,
her killer’s heart.

I held her redness out to him,
a killer put to death
at last. I did this but
to make amends,
but Father’s stomach turned.


Alternate Endings (Death of the Monster)


The cop out: you wake up
snug as a beetle in dung
and this was all a dream.

You snap the book shut
and I have never been.
Roll credits.


The Hollywood ending: moist cheeks and pop music. Characters
each reap what they’ve sown. Stitches hold. The director double-
knots the plot, leaves no loose ends or epilogue. He clips threads
with a full set of teeth. Our hero gets the girl or someone rather
human. The kiss: horses gallop on the beach and no legs break.
Wild, wild horses couldn’t drag me apart. Happy ever after.

You slay me, reader. You tear
my pages like a polar bear
kicking up snow, lunge for burrowing prey.

Look at me, all smithereens, yet still alive.
I dedicate each film to you.
I spit my teeth and offer them.
I doff the crown
of my skull to you, dear reader.

Can you not read the inscription?
Herbrew burnt into the bone

[Don’t you read Hebrew? Where were you educated?]

Run your fingers over it:
Aleph, mem, tav.
Emet. La vérité.

Emmett. Male. Variant of Emma,
Old German
origin, and meaning “Universal.”

How seamless. Emmett. Emet.
The living, crippled truth

Film shows everything
but reveals nothing

Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay

Father, look at me. Your boy blasphemes
merely by existing. I could crack your rib cage
and free your heart forty times

[the French for “forty” is  quarantine]

and not be slaked. There is no formula for that
in all of alchemy.

What science can undo your sorcery?

[slake: v. 1. satisfy
2. combine quicklime with water]

Dear reader, God-warm audience, please
kill me dead. Erase the aleph inside my skull.
Smash it with a rock, you tiny David

I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you,
cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live

{Enter gagging. Address the clotted audience.}

“My throat a viscous loch.” {Sing}

Living tissue, warm flesh
Weird science

Oh crowd, go wild
just once more.
Rip me up like Orpheus

[Closing shot: the severed head, his mouth
still beautiful, still singing]

Look at me.
Look.  At.  Me.
Crack this code
and wipe my skull clean
like a dish

[Slow dissolve]

Oh crowd, go wild.
I swear this is the last thing I—

+ + +

evan peterson poet poetry writing for nailed magazineEvan J. Peterson is the author of Skin Job, (2012 Minor Arcana Press). His zines include Secular Exorcisms, The Ecstatic Tarot, and Hello Kitty Chainsaw. A poet, fiction and nonfiction author, columnist, editor, performer, and teacher, Evan’s recent work can be found excerpted in the New York Times and in Weird Tales, Court Green, Assaracus, Aim For The Head: An Anthology Of Zombie Poetry. He is the newly appointed creative director/editor of Minor Arcana Press.



More than one editor and/or contributor was responsible for the completion of this piece on NAILED.