Lucia LoTempio

Instructions for Prey



It is not possible to function, to learn, to connect, to make progress, or even to hear in a climate of fear…Fear can be spotted like gold in the ground. Dig them out, and make them help you. Fears make the world go round. –Louise Bourgeois



One summer I bought a plant at the farmers market. When I took the money from my bra, the man smirked at me. I most likely killed it.


A climate of fear is both counting cards and laying its hand on the table.


There was a debate on campus about the semantics of No means no. Two philosophy professors in the key under a sagging hoop. Most of the women left before the Q&A.


Outside the department in the smoking pen, a man chastised his friend: It’s not bitches, they’re females.


Something grown: a sickness hollowing.


I heard: to pledge a girl had to hold a carrot in her vagina. Tuft of greenish mud leaf.


The bus driver let the girl with no money on, then told her she’d have better luck lying in the bed of a pickup truck. I get off.


The jangling of an empty ambulance—the only concern with the driver is a matter of heroics.


At orientation they told us to go prone if a man put his hands on us. laughed because he knew.


Thought, If it doesn’t happen to me that’s okay.


I used to want the punch line at the beginning of the joke.


I used to fold paper into boats, and the story that followed had to do with sinking.


I had so much I wanted to say it feels like I’ve forgotten it all. It’s TV static or a white noise machine. It’s still a seen thing. It’s still noise.


Little mouse, it’s hard to tell if you’re fearful, of what, and if it’s your fear to be had.


I see you shake, but is that your blood or the way my eyes are darting.


The other day my friend spoke beautifully on gold. I forget now and it’s just right beside me.


On the bus, after he touched me, the man placed his hand on my arm, gently, sincerely, said: I am so sorry.




In the bad dream the man on the bus keeps sleeping on me.


In the bad dream the boys hold me down but don’t grab me.


In the bad dream I’m disappointed when a friend saves me and we set ’s house on fire.


In the bad dream all of my friends turn like the bad has been inside them all along.


In the bad dream I set the house on fire and don’t think twice.




I used to think I needed to instruct you. As if I had been a little mouse who needed teaching. Sweet mouse, you will not ask what makes a predator; there is something shadowed after you. It’s less in the corners with metal snaps and more at the tip of your long and wonderful whiskers—and often it has whiskers too.


At the end of any fable a mouse, victorious. I’m not sure how to maneuver that moral, little sweet.


A predator as recognized by a growling—no: like a heater in the next room humming, that sounds like red herring. Predator when the knife is in hand—yes and also how it’s raised, even just briefly, pressed, without breaking, to moving flesh. Knife when the predator is at hand—once the body of a man was always a sharp edge. Not anymore. The ones that still come to a point, I’m realizing, are made clear, so bright, like metal, all metal, just glint in the sun.


LUCIA LoTEMPIO is the author of Hot with the Bad Things (Alice James Books, 2020). You can find her poems in Passages North, The Journal, TYPO, Quarterly West, as part of the Academy of American Poets poem-a-day series, and elsewhere. With Suzannah Russ Spaar, she co-authored the chapbook Undone in Scarlet (Tammy, 2019). Lucia lives and writes in Pittsburgh. Drop a line at