After Staring at a Kandinsky

The phone rings and it is never anyone giving me money.

Church ceilings painted to look like skies fill me with fury.

The pew hard against my back, I’d rather be

outside and how many times in my life have I said

what was I saying again, distracted by something

beautiful like stained glass, something ugly

like a slur. And I have been called a dirty Irish girl,

prepared to throw down in the coffee shop,

one time in my life this happened, some people

have slurs wrap around them like skin.

Once, affectionately, I tried calling a friend

a bitch and the word lay between us like egg

shell and yolk smashed and oozing on the plate, when here

I thought it was hard-boiled.

                                                            Have you ever seen

the feet of a ballet dancer? Mangled toes and

calluses. I didn’t have the arch, or the discipline.

I picture words like ballet slipping away as I get older,

and oh the leaps my hands will make to mime.

My grandmother had many feelings toward

the Japanese, as a WWII vet, and forgot all of them

because of her roommate Michiko in the nursing home.

I have had loss in my life. My grandmother crying in my arms

after grandfather died, so worried they’d have to

cut off his feet to fit him in the coffin.


Waking up after you have taken enough pills

to die is a strange feeling, I felt so horribly sick

to my stomach and surprised, if anything.

Teetering around the room like an invalid,

I threw up, I brushed my teeth, I washed my face.

People have told me they would pray for me.

That God wouldn’t let me be an atheist.

I hope it made them feel better.

What makes me feel better is someone

lightly rubbing their fingers along my scalp.

The shampoo girl does it perfectly.

I allow myself this every few months.

Any more than that, I start to feel self-indulgent.

Shevaun Brannigan is a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars, as well as The Jiménez-Porter Writers' House at The University of Maryland. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Best New Poets 2012, Rhino, Court Green, and Crab Orchard Review. She is the first place recipient of the 2015 Jan-ai Scholarship through the Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway, and a 2015 recipient of a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grant. Her work can be found at