Zefyr Lisowski

Ingredients for an Axe Girl
If I Did
If I Didn't 

Ingredients for an Axe Girl 


Insert girl. 

Insert wet. 

Insert family hurt axe hand. 

Insert locks. 


Make a box—kindness, hunger, etcetera 

Insert pear tree, juice dripping over the chin. 

(Increase hunger. Increase doors) 


Insert tooth insert tooth insert tooth 


She is lonely, and covered with blood. 

Her flesh her body taut with thirties. 

She is older. 

Increase wealth. Increase grief. 

I am not trying to build sympathy 

but empty beds terrify me, 

a thing howling and encrusted 

outside the window. House like a coffin. 

Decrease distance. 


The summer heating like a firing chamber— 

tender appearing in spurts as evaporated milk 


Questions appear: 

Do you know the throng of cut, of bird? 

Do you know this weight toward becoming? 

What to do with all this unfurling— 


Insert box, insert hand, insert blood box 

If I Did 

           - Lizzie 


Then I must sleep in a sheet twisted 

tight with blood, stomach heavy through the night.  

Then I know the scream of the ferry. 

Then “family” a word that stirs and stirs. 

What use are doors in this weather? Of course  


we hear everything— Father’s moans ghost  

through walls like cheesecloth. Here is a day. 

Here is another.   

There’s nothing to do but eat,  

piling one plate then the next, pears 

plummeting from the backyard brown as  

blood. Father never  

talks anymore, and Mrs Borden  

changes in my sleep to someone  


who is still alive. We always lock our  

rooms. My nightgown the finest terrycloth 

or linen. Look at my face, my flushed cheek,  

my lips. Look at my tenderness.  


If I told you it was an intruder who did it, 


would you take my hand in yours 

and touch my trembling back?  


It was. It was. Oh God, it was. 

If I Didn’t 

          - Lizzie 


“Not guilty” holds meanings in its skin too, 

and I am deeply acquainted with all of them— 

a series of cells dancing between my eyes, 

fingers corpsing on the table, the investigator 

peeling wallpaper from the parlor. I’m used  

to others’ stares, their pauses. I’m used to silence.  

Am I haunted? I am haunted. Even in the courtroom, 

as they mouth the acquittal, I start dreaming 

of another life—surely I can find happiness. I know 

this because I ignore my dreams, and eat food  

regularly. I know this because I’ve read stories, 

miraculous instances of angelic visitations,   

shipwrecks that reverse themselves, a fire that, 

suddenly, stops burning. Do you see it? Kindness 

flocking like birds? I’m talking about a forgiveness 

so close to touching you, you can taste it— 


there it is, the yard over. 

There it is, climbing the fence. 


There it is, raising thin hand to rap,  


at the parlor door. 


Answer it.