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Spoiling: a Triptych


Beauty spoils the Rubble


Silk, jeweled kaleidoscope dense with dew

glints between corroded brick walls

glistens its mist among the rubble.


Among ruins, the spider

slides a mucus-slick dinner

into his mouth: his spoils.


His Spoils


The moth’s struggling wings

brush on a macabre lipstick.



Mosquito’s spindly legs—rapturous.



Common fly, rich with nutrients.


Spider: spoiled and gorged.


Spoiled and Gorged


All at once, everything.

The meat and veg.

He begs for nothing.

He seizes his spoils

in a dominion of ruins.

It is yours, Spider, all of it.


This is what our war offers you:  

skeletons on the countryside;

walls, molded and folding in

on themselves. Those are yours.

And the vines, that sweet meat.

Brag of it.

Don’t Wake Me


Often, I dream of a myriad-roomed, ramshackled house.

Spiral stairways with no endings. Clutter end over end.

Hallways, mossed with mildew. And always,

a zombie groaning amidst the litter of laundry.

Then you. Gnawing at my neck. No, wait. Kissing it.

Wake Me



me. Pretend I’m

bearable. Reinvent

me so I’m capable of love



Spin me

quickly. My wind-

whipped dress, tendrils of silk.  

When the twirling ends, kiss, spin me


The Way

He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. . . . you have lacked nothing.

- Deuteronomy 2:7 (NKJV)

  • At Fourteen


Hungry. Mouth filled with tasteless

dust-crusted manna. What God

would spill us into this heavy desert?

Mother loathes my surly words. She

molds manna into loaves: we eat

them all, lest they curdle. What God

would lead then leave us?

If we suffer, she says, we will surely live.

My tears puddle. Not enough

to change the sand.


  • At Twenty-Eight


So long under the sun, I am speechless.

Shawled, weak, needful. I starve myself

of God. He is insufferable in this heat:

a weighted woolen blanket heaped over

my crowded heart. The murmur, the chatter—

constant grumbling of the desert-claimed—

it drives me mad. My knees give way.

If I die dust-spun who will remember

I succumbed to hunger with my stomach full?


  • At Thirty-Nine


I crowd the altar, cry: alter me.

There must be more than this cursing,

this heat, this bitter weeping. I scrawl,

rescrawl His name in the sand.

Skin of my fingers raws red, draws

bloodlines. I have been insufferable:

a broken cistern. I am a basket, splintered.

He was, is beside me. Unweaving. Reweaving.  


  • At Fifty-Four


On my tongue, praise: spill of joy, moist fruit

in my parched mouth. Forty years I stumbled

over claiming Yes. Grumbled starve-hearted,

undisciplined, disciple of myself. And ruin.

Sand gruffed my throat, stippled the moss

of my voice; today my love song

scratches out, and out

and upward.


"The Between Spaces" - Ellen Langford 

Michelle McMillan-Holifield is a recent Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has been included in or is forthcoming in Boxcar Poetry Review, Jabberwock Review, Sky Island Journal, Sleet Magazine, Stirring, The Collagist, Toasted Cheese, Whale Road Review, and Windhover, among others. She hopes you one day find her poetry tacked to a tree somewhere in the Alaskan Wild. 

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