Poetry Suite by Sheila McMullin

Editor Carrie Ivy, Poetry, January 5th, 2015

I could step gleaming like a pearl, or pink oyster tongue...

sheila mcmullin poetry suite


Beneath my blouse
I do not wear a bra.

I hold myself and cradle what is.
Some think

this is my attempt to hold a baby, feel the weight and beat
of another’s close to me.

I do not wish this, I am not a sheathe.
When I sleep

I am even more of a bad woman.
If some unfortunate

event, I think, were to rip
me out of this house and into

the street in the middle of night
my body would be melting
under the eyes of the neighbors.

They would see my black, sheer panties,
notice no one else
came out of the house with me,

the outlined curve, rounding above
my hips against the flames of the fire or whatever,

a shivering mandible
like one you could ride,
goose bumps betraying my skin,

a forearm crushing
my breasts flat and yet, there’s the cleavage.

Out there, I could step gleaming like a pearl,
or pink oyster tongue;
rough and flawed,
strike out the vitative.
Menarche alchemy.

Chips of glowing breeze
sibilate on my febrile body.
Create a constellation of me.
Let the blanket burn
mirrors and poppies.
The should-be-shamed
naked woman
vesper, building her own house.
My body, blue rosemary cloak, blooming ocean.


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Pointing at yellow
I can say this is alchemy.
I can say, Change

and my breath, wet,
will yaw and I will change.
Not in the making of gold,

but in lucenting
the moment before you inhale.
Sparking the particle you groaned

as a speck in your eye
to a Foehn wind.
Guarantee you will see what I see.

Imagine yourself a spectator
and a woman in a business suit walks
toward the water, keeps walking, walks

right over the edge of the platform.
Gold into water, harder to communicate
through dialogue with you.

I want to be the child
with colored pencil in hand,
so you can see me that way.

Show you a drawing.
Point to the yellow and say, This.
The meaning of a white walleye

belly up in the river.
The meaning of a fish
not eaten alive before expiring.

The meaning of an expired body.
The meaning of floating with lungs
open to the sun.

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The sky above our heads
is not pocked with orange poppies
and firelight ranunculus.

My heart—
a plastic bag
inside many other plastic bags.


Do you fear
your body because you love
your body and your
entire life were shamed for being so loving?

Does regret fill
every empty space?

Do you ever fear
you will always be clawing
at the angry knot twisting out of this pit?

Grasping at dry, weak roots?


Like Bluebeard’s wives,
are you trapped in front of the door?
Or behind it?


In my fantasies
I sit in front of a bowl of poppies
at the kitchen table thinking about God,
folding and refolding a napkin in front of my face.


There is a King of May
I have heard them speak of before.
In his pockets he holds keys
that will unlock every door,
which will reap a harvest.

He doesn’t know my name.
And doesn’t care to learn.
To have access to those doors,
I will have to steal those keys.

If I get caught…

To think about what he can do…
too much.


How do you inhabit anger?
Do you realize it?
Feel it?
Or are it?
Does it depend on your body?

For me, I realized I was angry,
and realized late.

It was like
watching, yet again, a simultaneous rape and murder scene
on the screen.
Before, in horror, I would whimper or through some avenue
know not to look beforehand.
But this time,
I didn’t know.
And this time
I smashed the screen.


I have not stopped thinking about how
angry I am.

I wonder:
have I been clawing my whole life?
Have I ever been taught without shame?

I do not stop thinking how angry I am.
This thinking makes me furious.

I do not know how to be angry.

I hear it, the fury,
and I feel violent.


Roaring hiss.
Like a fissure from my sternum to navel
kneaded outward
toward growing waves of bile and heat
rolled into tight cylinders
plucked from my sides and sent
floating into the air from a gentle puff of breath.

My ability to make reasonable decisions
and to be loved by God
have been questioned without prompting.

I have been made
to think I was broken and disgusting.

Others took joy out of my body
when I did not.

A mouth full of warm saliva.

I sit alone
like a bulb in winter soil.


Do I deserve that?


It all twirls back.
Do you deserve my anger?


An overextended body.

I have carefully cataloged these memories,
filed them away in draws open
and within reach.
and invited into the fury to be drowned by guilt.

So much guilt.
To be angry.
I am told
I do not deserve to be angry.


The life being built around me
looks nothing like the heart inside of my heart.

What will grow
in the untouchable space
here in my throat
of fertile, cool soil,
I fear,
will not be good.
Kali, eat up my guilt.
Eat up the violets to pull bags out of me.


Are you willful?

I am.

My hands deep into the ground
shaking the shit out of those I wish
would come back and guide me through.

I am Persephone.
Iron clad, I rule the ground as a sprinting fox
to give back mothers and sisters,
pull the veils from our faces.

I rip out every pinwheel gravestone
and plant them in an oak forest
to make our hearts just as strong
or at least, the same again.

Trust me with my body.


Let my anger be
an anger which moves toward.

Throw away not only flower,
but planter and window and the sunlight behind it.

I’ve seen God in my movement.
You don’t have to believe me or support me.
But you do have to get out of my way.


Let go


At least say it.

Like alchemy

The sky above our heads
is pocked with orange poppies
and firelight ranunculus.



God’s hand over your belly over the earth

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Header Image courtesy of Maria Louceiro. To view a gallery of her work, go here.

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sheila mcmullin poetry nailed magazineSheila McMullin curates the feminist and artist resource website, MoonSpit Poetry where a list of her publications can also be found. She is the Assistant Editor for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts where she writes the column “Spotlight On!”celebrating literary magazines that publish a diverse representation of writers. She is a Contributing Editor for ROAR Magazine: A Journal of the Literary Arts by Women. Her poetry collection, Like Water, has received notable attention from Ahsahta Press, New Delta Review, and Black Lawrence Press chapbook competitions. She works as an after-school creative writing and college prep instructor, and volunteers at her local animal rescue.


Carrie Ivy

Carrie Ivy (formerly Carrie Seitzinger) is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Ivy is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.