Four Poems

Adventures of the Double-Headed Girl, The Girl with Antlers, Thou Shalt Not, Monogamy


Adventures of the Double-Headed Girl

We are indeed a strange people
wedded together, axis of a shared spine
behind bifocals, scientists examine us
lusus naturae—our name penciled into a catalogue
enthralled, gentlemen wonder
might I possess two women at once?
arriving at a fork in the road, a man
will pull at his whiskers, ponder the possibilities,
and decide shrewdly yes, ’tis better
to slaughter two doves with his single stone
the fire-eater winks at us knowingly
is he flirting with me or you?
I reply with a kiss blown
from my tight-gloved hand
lettered men haven’t printed the word
for this braided pleasure
two women corseted together
whet the spectators’ appetite
like boys in front of a sweetshop window
the crowd of men in derby hats
jostle for a closer view of us
two women corseted together
the unspeakable, we are
a winged seed


The Girl with Antlers


I tore myself out of my own mother’s womb.
There was no other way to arrive in this world.
A terrified midwife named me Monster,
and left me in the pine woods with only the moon.
My mother’s blood dripped from my treed head.

In a dream, my mother came to me and said
if I was to survive
I must find joy within my own wild self.

When I awoke I was alone in solitude’s blue woods.


A woman found me and took me to her mountain home
high at the end of an abandoned logging road.
We spent long winter evenings by the fire,
I sat at the hearth as she read aloud myths of the Greeks
while the woodstove roared behind me.
She sometimes paused to watch the wall of shadows
cast by my antlers. The shadows danced
across the entire room like an oak’s wind-shaken branches.


The woman was worried when I would not wear dresses.
I walked naked through the woods.
She hung the wash from my head
on hot summer days when I sat in the sun to read.
The woman grew worried when I would not shed
my crown with the seasons as the whitetails did.
“But I am not a whitetail,” I said.


When I became a woman
in the summer of my fifteenth year,
I found myself
suddenly changed in the mirror.
My many-pronged crown had grown
into a wildness of its own;
highly stylized,
the antlers were majestic to my eye.

The woman saw me and smiled. “What you are I cannot say,
but nature has created you.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

When night came it brought a full moon.
I walked through the woods to the lake
and knelt in the cool grass on its bank.
I saw my reflection on the water,
I touched my face.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. 


Thou Shalt Not

No don’t, no law
No law, no lock
No lock, no key
No key, no discovery
No discovery, no sin
No sin, no guilt
No guilt, no deceit
No deceit, no mask
No mask, no fright
No fright, no delight
No delight, no devil
No devil, no wolf
No wolf, no hunt
No hunt, no game
No game, no chase
No chase, no catch
No catch, no kill
No kill, no thrill
No thrill, no thrust
No thrust, no lust
No lust, no lay
No lay, no lies
No lies, no hide
No hide, no seek
No seek, no snake
No snake, no Eve
No Eve, no Fall
No Fall, no man
No man, no you
No you, no yes. 



After the workweek we
undress and have celebratory sex
that lasts as long as a mint on the tongue.
Habitually, my husband
inhales the familiar musk of my hair
and dozes. October light
leaves sooner now. Shadows
stretch through the rooms, swallow
the amber light as I listen
to the tiny ticking of my husband’s
wristwatch, the migration of wild
geese calling relentlessly
southward, to lands where the sun
warms the eternally green
trees, where a woman bathes in the sea
alone, drifting and anonymous.
She’s nobody’s wife. White-crested
waves swell but never break
at the shore. In this strangely painted
season, she doesn’t box away
her white sundresses and wayfarers.
She keeps her eyes always in binoculars.
Outside my window, the crying V of geese
bleeds away into another city.
In the bedroom, a sudden
vague yet putrid smell from the vase
of expired chrysanthemums, yellowed
and irretrievable,
by the western bay window.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Ansel Elkins was born in Alabama and lives today in North Carolina. She is a winner of the Yale Younger Poets Prize, and her first book of poems, Blue Yodel, will appear in spring 2015.


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