you could have had an abortion


daughter   is     another word    for   mirror.     i am a rope of dense cells undulating

through my mother’s bone house,   repeat   repeat   repeating;

a    speculum ratcheting     open;   a womb notched with abjection;   generations of legs

parted  by    jagged hands;     cervixes dilated            as my own pupil.

oh mother.       oh prized madea.       we are both

lower swine;    beasts of feminine viscera.    you,     the gilded matriarch        with  breath made

of superstition                     and me,   fired like a stoneware pot              in your image.



Shrike Psalm


I have grown wings for the sake

of indulging myself. A beak, for picking

through sour garbage in search of icons


with your face. I built my nest on

the tongue of God because he looked like

you, or vice versa.  Remember when you


took a sterile needle to the back

of my neck and spelled out albatross.

My night shrieking is a special worship;


my ripened breath hums your name

like a death rite, like a sex rite. I’ve spent

years writing about the birds, but I keep


the bees cloistered in my mouth. I want

to tell you how dolorous I have become;

how crooked from weaving you crowns


of barbed wire. Every Sunday, I mount your

phantom on thorns with hands I bloodied

myself and call you religious history.



natura non contristatur 


i am an unwoman.

in the woods, shadow children chronicle my

body; a tome written in uterine fluid.

at dusk, they put a fox placenta between

my teeth so i will know the taste of

wild mothering. i try to tell them about

the crystal ball in my womb, round

as an infant skull. that i have only

ever birthed dry dirt and summer storms wailing

abolition. that sometimes, i pretend to labor

and end up with arms full of almost-daughter

and how i kiss the ghost pads of her velvety feet

before i take her to the rushing riverbed

and put her to sleep.



Mercedes Payton Bio PhotoMercedes Payton is an undergraduate at Kansas State University studying Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Disquiet Arts is her debut publication.