Ellen Welcker




I took my scythe to the bathroom. The vibration was scary, almost. I couldn’t wait to get out

of there. Some of us were standing around with our tools; others of us immediately took to

hacking and battering the ground and nearby bushes.


After a time of holding it awkwardly, I hinged at the elbow to rest the backside of the blade

on my shoulder. I had a conversation and my scythe became a credential, an integral part of

an unspoken power dynamic. The slightest stem of grass leapt from my blade.


After a while I traded it for what I thought was some sort of air gun, but was actually a

blowtorch. It had a long hose that I looped confidently over my shoulder. The urge to faux-

lasso was strong. The urge to become a joke, human + tool, or was it woman + power tool?

The joke. I swung it around, became embarrassed, lurched aimlessly on my feet. My feet like

two clubs: dumb weapons. I didn’t have a flame canister. I felt like a child.


My pickaxe was in someone else’s hands. They drove it again and again into the gravel

road.  My breath coming short, hot, wet.


I tried to think of something to say. In my mind I scrolled through celebrity tools, tools of the

founding fathers, tools of religion and self-defense, ordinary tools. I did a small eccentric

dance with my handsaw.


It came to me, suddenly, then, like a shot, like a person who wears a lover with no one inside.


I held my sling at the crux of the Y. I aimed at the sky. The sound was appealing when I hit

the overturned trough, but I preferred the lob of earth arcing through blue.


Back in the bathroom, I’d seen a sign, impossible to read, wasn’t it? When I came out—the

looks of shock on our faces—the tools, still throbbing in our white-knuckled hands.



—after Paisley Rekdal’s The Wolves



It was the night of histrionics. Histrionics

over everything, probably just tired.

She’d had a really good day. We know

what that’s like. You blink, blink and think this

is alive. But only after. In the good day,

you’re just in it. Then sobbing. Don’t wanna

grow up. Wish I was his age. Wish

I could stay with you, and we didn’t have

to die or knew—I moved in the space

between shushing and the lie.


The lie has felt more truthful lately.

There have been times when I couldn’t.

I felt a jinx lurk, felt its hunger. The oldest fear:

of not knowing if I would be able to keep her safe,

what that betrayal might look like for her,

in the rest of her days. It was too much.

I said nothing. Or said, we can’t know, and this

is the blah blah blah of alive.

Listened, mute, to a spirit come howling

into a small and pitiful creature.


Now I say shush, I say the we can’t know part,

the blah blah blah part. I say big feelings,

and with you, and feel them. And I say it’s alright.

Which bewilders me. I say alright, alright, it’s

alright and I don’t mean “it” and I don’t

mean “right,” just a kind of hum

that’s an aaah I can get behind. I say crazy

ass shit like never gonna leave you and

always be with you, and I don’t worry

about the hungry jinx.


When she gets a little older, I will give her

a mad-eyed smile. I’ll put my stone cold finger

in her sternum and say, I will HAUNT you,

and she will laugh and shake her head.

But even at six she knows. My cells

her blood my dust her hair my breath.

Her lungs. I’m not leaving.

It was a good day.

And other things, too. What

is the difference now.


ELLEN WELCKER has poems recently in DusieWillow Springs, and Small Po[r]tions, as well as collected in the chapbooks Mouth That Tastes of Gasoline (alice blue, 2014) and The Urban Lightwing Professionals (H_NGM_N, 2011), and a book called The Botanical Garden (Astrophil, 2010). Her second collection, Ram Hands, is forthcoming in 2017. She lives in Spokane, WA, where she coordinates the Bagley Wright Lecture Series on Poetry and co-facilitates Scablands Lit, an organization that supports writers in the Inland Northwest.