Zefyr Lisowski





First, an ache. Then, click of fingers on latches. I never write about my sister Emma, who is never at ease in this maze, I mean house, I mean spite. She says, we have walls to keep secrets, and locks to hold them tight. Father is away most days. Our home looks like this regularly:

but in my dreams it's even more monstrous, walls bent like a crust of whalebone. I will be 32, which also is a type of box. I walk the thin floors of my bedroom every day, hearing the bicker and creak of the house. The only relief we have is supper—another geometry, another violence too.




That might account for the blood stains on the axes.

Their friends admit that things were not as pleasant as they might have been in that house.

Seven out of the nine stories that were reported to the police were investigated, and all were found to be myth.

There was no man lurking within the chimney.

Mrs. Borden was not the mother of the girls and the father was not overly liberal with them.

The funeral services took place at 11'o clock, and were strictly private.

Some stories that have been written about these relations should be regarded as the grossest exaggeration.

A blossom of bone flower, spreading over her face—

The door was found open after the murders, and it appears that no one saw Mrs. Borden for two hours.

Miss Lizzie says she spent the morning of the tragedy in the barn,
eating pears

The bodies were not moved, tho' they were horrible to look at

Each head crushed like grape

They found no hidden chambers—

The remaining family so shaken by the events, they have been prescribed morphine liberally—

The pear tree's bright plumage—

That afternoon, all that matched the searchers' gaze were boxes of clothing.





Is all this grief repetitive to you?

I see my stepmother and look at a straw creature.

I see my uncle, fresh from the long expanse

of Iowa,

and there are only shadows, heaps of luggage.

I'm spending more and more time in the barn—

its stifle, scratch and warp of floor. From there,

I can see the plyboard of our home, plump droop of

pear tree. Violence dances with us like ghosts. Uncle John's

voice booming over evening meal. This family

filthens me. When trying to escape, I close

my eyes and think of Massachusetts' rocky

coast—which I've only seen once, its seaboard

a slate as silver-grey as my father's dry eyes. Its shore

salty as the coat he hangs up grimed

by the completion of each day's errands.

This is our intimacy, the bond we keep:

I always pass by before he climbs the back stairs.

I am careful to avoid eye contact.

He is careful to keep the door locked afterward.





We wear black veils to the funeral
and the coffins held light like a basket.

It is August. Our clothes swelter.
The trees that line their plot are unsavory.

I do not cry and do not sleep.

Beneath the clothes, my body is falling
apart, becoming illuminated

with flame,

and they are not here:


I do not grieve
I do not grieve




I'm fascinated by Lizzie Borden, the probable lesbian and rich white woman in Fall River, MA, who (most likely) axed her stepmother and father to death in their shared home, August 4th, 1892. These poems, from the collection about her, Blood Box (forthcoming Fall 2019 from Black Lawrence Press), pay elegy to her and the violence of the closet, but also to a lesser extent my father, who passed away as I was writing them. How accountable are we for our grief? What does our violence do to us?