Illicit Haunting

Mary Elizabeth Birnbaum


The other winter, the one

that lives in the circle of night in your vision

and blows frost on your mirrors

from some other will, a malice, shivered, jealous.


You don’t deserve happiness.

Here are pins to put in the dolls of your children.

In your hollows are bloody icicles

where your murderer has blamed you for his lies.


Why doesn’t the sun

ever work in this place? Whatever you try

slides slowly from your numb hands

into a record of failure nailed on all doorways.


You carry this house,

instead of sheltering in it. A wailing hell

of a splintered family bunker.

You were asleep, naked. Now please notice:


There’s almost no bliss

left on your bones. Let your sigh go. I promise,

no one will laugh at your crazy quilt,

your colors. There’s still summer in your eyes. 



Mary Elizabeth Birnbaum was born, raised, and educated in New York City. She has studied poetry at the Joiner Institute in UMass, Boston. Mary’s translation of the Haitian poet Felix Morisseau-Leroy has been published in The Massachusetts Review, the anthology Into English (Graywolf Press), and in And There Will Be Singing, An Anthology of International Writing by The Massachusetts Review, 2019 as well. Her work is forthcoming or has recently appeared in Lake Effect, J-Journal, Spoon River Poetry Review, Soundings East, and Barrow Street.