Heather Madden

From What Breaks Becomes the Binding Agent

Together we study what’s broken.

Water drips from the insulation surrounding the copper pipe.

This is not condensation, I say, pressing the foam

and a hot stream spills to the floor.


At the hardware store, a man in a business suit holds the

door for an elderly man who stands at an angle, balances with a

cane. I move slowly, offers the older man.


I want to hear a story about mercy. Instead,

Leslie tells me there’s a myth:

a man who wishes for eternal life but forgets to wish for youth.

Eventually, he turns into a cricket.


The elderly man pauses, despite his pace,

to press the end of his cane into the body of a live locust.

Oh, says the man, holding the door, you haven’t killed it.

Doesn’t matter, says the man with the cane.


The man-who-holds-the-door steps on the locust

again and again. He smiles at me as I pass,

I’ll end its suffering, he says.


At home, we pour apple cider vinegar into bottles,

cover them with Saran Wrap, then poke holes in the makeshift lids.

Slowly, the fruit flies gather and drown.


We practice catch and release for beetles, moths, and spiders,

but we crush mosquitoes and carpenter ants.


We agree upon avihimsa, but avihimsa has not yet come to pass.



The swaddled dog resembles a Q-tip.


Another furnace repairman arrives: he talks

about changes in barometric pressure, and we like him.

The cave at Michael’s feet represents the unknown;

his red garment ties him to the earth.


M— (my sister) calls while she’s on lunch break;

her walk is without food. We talk budgets

and unforeseeable expenses, how to afford the next steps.


Each morning, Eric carries a suitcase of water from the basement,

empties it into the kitchen sink, or pours it onto the lawn,

waters the flowers before he returns the case to the dehumidifier.


The bats whisper answers to questions we didn’t ask.


Does bleeding during the first trimester always constitute an emergency?

What of Russia’s support of the separatists?


After the bats kill Coyote, they grind up his skin and mix it with soil.

Then he’s scattered in every direction.

The Obama administration and Europe impose sanctions.


Kale contains a small amount of iron and large amounts of magnesium,

and yet it provides 6% of the RDA for each.


After I walk a mile or two, my legs shake.

By a stretch of the imagination, both the fertilized egg and a bomb

can be described as a germinating vesicle.




A watermelon so small—I might cup it in my hand—has formed on the vine.

The clouds arrange themselves for another weather.


The man who’s repairing the washer has cut himself.

I deduce this from the spot of blood on the basement floor,

the crimson dot-to-dot along the cellar stairs.


Warm water gathers around the pipe, beneath the insulation, a space for rust.