from the letters of Mary Shelley

Dear Mother,

I watched G.’s fingers on the page

Neck with a faint line

Neck you loved

so I loved it too

He was the glaze through

which I saw the sun

We called the Goat’s Beard in our field

Sweet Meadow,


and Wise Father-Men

I touched the feathered heads

to feel the god of it

At Chalk Farm we drank the cream

of syllabubs

Sister held my arm but

I was the apple of his eye

I was the reader of his work

His frown could collapse my spine

His grief for you became a pillar

my attention wound onto

Were you mad that I took your ______

G. was mad with his glacial love

and became more so despite

my maniacal reading toward love:

A child can kill its mother,

baby wet and monstrous, slipping

with eyes opened: black and white,

the stewed creation

not asking to be born,

but requiring __________


*Mary Shelley was born to writers Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Her mother died 10 days after giving birth to her. Mary Shelley was raised by her father who also adopted Mary Wollstonecraft’s daughter Fanny, conceived from an earlier relationship. Godwin raised both girls with unusual strictness and little affection.

Jessica Cuello

Jessica Cuello is the author of Hunt (The Word Works, 2017) and Pricking (Tiger Bark Press, 2016). She has been awarded The 2017 CNY Book Award, The 2016 Washington Prize, The New Letters Poetry Prize, a Saltonstall Fellowship, and most recently, The New Ohio Review Poetry Prize. Her newest poems can be found in Copper Nickel, Cave Wall, Bat City Review, Pleiades, and Salamander.