The Daughter

by Shevaun Brannigan

I get so angry at children with their mothers
in the library talking loudly about how they love books.
The longer I live, the more likely I am to lose a limb.
I analyze each word of mine now like combing for lice nits.
Everyone is too close to me.
I feel my mother’s breath coming in through the vents like sarin gas.
A lack of consideration is the issue.
I can count the number of people I know missing fingers
or parts of fingers on one hand.
Tell me as I grow older I will not only stay intact but grow.
I commit to a life of butter knives.
No one else can hear her, I hear her
sighs like only dogs hear those whistles.
I never wanted to hate anyone.
Sometimes I come-to in my body
and I am staring some angry person down.
Most of the time it’s a mirror.
Today it is a woman missing a leg, wearing a skirt rustling above her knee.
How I always thought I’d seen the missing
children from the newspaper adverts,
as though all the extras in my life had been kidnapped,
and I even once called the number to say:
I saw him at a lemonade stand in Charles County, giving out the change.
I remember the taste of that lemonade even now, so sour
my mouth puckered like a snapdragon blossom.
I once loved gardening and now I can’t bear even the feel of soap on my hands.
Seeing workers’ gloves in the road, run over,
I used to wonder if they missed the hands that filled them.
Or if the empty airplane hangar needed that time alone.
Now I know it is neither, and both.
To contain and be contained—my mother’s body
once held me and now I hold my mother’s.
Nesting dolls are a poor, overused metaphor.
Find me the doll of the daughter, haunted. Comes with ghost.

Shevaun Brannigan is a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars, as well as The Jimenez-Porter Writers’ House at The University of Maryland. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2012, Rhino, Washington Square Review, and Crab Orchard Review. Her favorite poetry gig is the workshop she leads at her local domestic violence shelter. Her work can be found at