Skinning Ghosts Alive by Alison Rollins


In the beginning, there is no yes.
The amniotic sac a dust jacket

for the book of trauma. One plus one makes one.
There is a nomenclature to this math, a method

to the madness of creation. There is no he.
There is no she. There’s just a girl expelling

Y from her loose jowl maw. The residue of jargon
staining her lips boy red. We are never our own.

This is why we are so lonely. Why lightheaded stars
nestle their knives in the sky’s black chest. Why we

eat men like air. Celestial bulb expelled like hangnail
curved as comma. Straight as the line reading you

your missing period and the knowing that this statement
cannot be allowed to continue. This belly not permitted

to raise a question. Even lightening shakes the earth by its
arms. Who am I to object? Point fingers at the order.


I was born bad. A train of yeses parading round
my hip’s border. A trail of forget-me-nots sprouting
from my Father’s chin. This tongue needs shepherding,
as do the bones. I clench and carry the pain of my Mother
in my teeth, at the root a canal of fear. The space between
each molar the size of the closet door my grandmother’s
mother locked her in as she cried no promising that she
would be good. So naturally my mouth’s second nature is
naughty. This is how you end up leading the shell of a man
to your bed. How you crack your peanut colored self
until the sidewalk of your cheeks are caked with salt in April.
Your lover’s eyelids half-lit houses with terror veining their way
down the stairs. It is cold in this thing we call a body.
Who will tend to the fire with so few hands to go around?


Even snakes lose themselves in their skin.
Their life’s throat peeled back in molting song.

A second me lies somewhere on the ground.
Hollowed as the cicada shells I collected in the woods

as a child. Knowing even then that the anatomy of loss
was worth picking, even if only to acknowledge that

something has shed and not died, something brown as me
has left its skeleton behind, more perfectly intact than broken,

as if to say we are living
and dying just the same.

This is why we are so homesick,
why we hull ourselves in shadows.


Alison C. Rollins, born and raised in St. Louis city, currently works as the Librarian for Nerinx Hall. She is the second prize winner of the 2016 James H. Nash Poetry Contest and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, River Styx, Solstice, Tupelo Quarterly, Vinyl, and elsewhere. She is a Cave Canem Fellow and recipient of the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship.