Sunday Sep 22

IsabelleShepherd Isabelle Shepherd is currently an undergraduate at West Virginia University. Shepherd will graduate in Spring, 2014 with dual degrees in English and Political Science. Her poems have been published in venues such as Plain Spoke and Backbone Mountain Review. Shepherd intends to continue the study of poetry at whatever MFA program graciously accepts her.


Collecting Butterflies

On my ninth birthday, our landlord gave me The Field Guide
to Butterflies, a worn copy I read by flashlight,
beneath the blankets, beside the bed
my mother sometimes shared with him. I knew
them by name. Pieris virginiensis left chalk-white dust
on my fingertips. The landlord taught me to lure them
with sugar offered on upheld palms.
Shadowboxes waited for milkweed to bleed
white, ready for the monarch’s unfolding.
I pinned one down, needle through thorax,
quieting the writhing of its thick abdomen until I
could spread its gilded wings. 


A Weekend at Your One Bedroom Family Cabin in Braxton Co., WV

When I met your father, I saw your eyes.
I wanted to kiss them when he looked at me.

You know the neighbors
live without running water
because you broke into their barn-house
one night two years ago
with your brother after the fire
died down and the beer was gone.
We’d do it again tonight, but they’re home.

Hunters in neon whistle at beagles;
they remind you of your grandfather.
The last person who lifted me onto his shoulders
was my mother’s boyfriend in ’99.
I think he wanted me to know what floating felt like.

You’re not even shaking, hands gripping
my thighs. The thrill is better than the view
into the one room schoolhouse.
In the stream, you used to capture crawdads.
I built a dam every time it rained.
It surprises you that I know
what a snake feels like: the sleeves of those leather jackets
you run your fingers down in stores
without picking up because you’re scared
to see how much they cost.
The water in the creek will ice over
lightly soon. Only children will skate
without breaking through.

You take me into town,
where we buy two bottles
of Coca-Cola, because things just taste better
with lips pursed for a kiss.

This is a musical project about the resonance of closed-end air columns,
narrow necks that sing.

Back at the cabin, you add whiskey
to cans of Coke and steal
one of your dead grandfather’s pipes.
I’d forgotten how to stoke a fire. 
And though we shared the bed upstairs,
we couldn’t fuck, but we could see the stars
for the first time in months.


Such a Selfish Thing, or My Father’s Memorial Service


This is not about my father.

When I walked in, a woman asked how I knew the deceased, and I had to explain. I downed a glass of wine with one of my mother’s Xanax in the hallway immediately after.

My grandfather, the night’s party planner, sat in a chair eating tiny sandwiches, stroking the underbelly of an aged lion.

The party favors: gift bags of my father’s ashes, velvet ribbon closure. The guests tossed them like confetti; one rimmed her glass with it, like salt.

Besides family, the only man who had known my father couldn’t talk—face bent inward; his two sons sat apart in the back room, understood when I escaped to the bath and turned off the lights.

Everyone else walked around, looked at his art, said, He must have been so clean, orderly. A solid worker. He never had a job. His house was a fire hazard.

When it came my turn to stand and pay my dues, I sprinkled poppies down my arms and lit them all to flames.