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Twisted Myths


Twisted Myths

by Jessica Halsey

This free Shakespir edition published by Jessica Halsey

Copyright © 2016 Jessica Halsey


Thank you so much for downloading this free poetry ebook. Excerpts may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jessica Halsey and the source from which the excerpt came. Site your sources.


Cover art by Jessica Halsey.



Acknowledgements and Thanks




Doll’s Lament

Cigarette Love

River Girl


Altar: Creation

The things you throw away

Apocalyptic Daydream

Dead Mermaid Singing


Horoscopes for an Oracle



What you need to take with you

Two Travelers

Childhood’s Index


Primer for the Future King

Witch the Third

Wife of Lot

Twisted Myth


The Song Ghosts Sing When They Come to Fuck Your Shit Up

What runs away in the night


Sky: Another Apocalyptic Daydream


About Jessica Halsey

Connect with Jessica Halsey

Other Works by Jessica Halsey


Many thanks to Misty Rampart of Pink Litter for giving my poem “River Girl” a lovely place to live.


Thanks to my family and friends. Thanks for all the stories. Thanks for reading.



Your daughter came to me in a dream.


The storm fell across her face


but she didn’t want anything






tucked inside

the truck stop diner’s

rain gutter



the space




you left behind

on your way to a better place.



How are you doing…?


◎ Yes

◎ No


Do you or have you lost in the past:


1. A sad face Y/N

2. A waterfall Y/N

3. Someone who takes care of you Y/N

4. A knife in the back Y/N

5. A movement that makes your body feel powerful Y/N



She lay on her boyfriend’s bed on top of an uncomfortable nest of sheets; she didn’t care that he left her. Her ribs felt like red-hot iron stays of a fireplace grate, each vertebra sang like stones trapped under a rotting harbor, the tide ceaselessly pounding. Her eyes were two black roses that bloomed into the open window of a very dark room, roses that abandoned the cold embrace of silver moonlight. Her heart, which was once a magnificent super nova, dwindled down to a pound of softly glowing embers that she shoved into her mouth like fistfuls of sweet plums.

Doll’s Lament


I love you.

Don’t leave me.

I’m only alive when you’re singing my name and the room fills with honeysuckle.

The air isn’t sweet when you’re gone.

And you’re gone.


The flowers all wither, my name is afraid.

Shadows dance in the dust and their teeth are not sweet when you’re gone.

And you’re gone.


The clock smashes against midnight.

The echoes collide like my cold heart and the floor.

The room is as large as the world when you’re gone.

And you’re gone.


I’m only alive when you’re holding my name in your hand like a dream.

The dream isn’t sweet when you’re gone.

And you’re gone.



Cigarette Love


(for all the cigarettes I will never smoke)


Smoking was always a thing lost and broken girls did so I smoked and hoped that the world would start to make sense to me in the same way it made sense to them.


Smoking only happened in cool places so if I smoked the place I was in would become cooler.


When I smoked in front of a mirror the other me on the other side was smoking too and she and I were always doing the same thing: smoking. We were never alone when we were smoking together.

River Girl


My mother was the type of girl who all the boys said they would marry but never date. And so I am the sum of all of her pent up aggression, she bottled all of her passion up and put it into me; made me out of that crisp, crackling fire so that she could remain frigid because how else do you deal with a husband who doesn’t love you? A husband who abandons you and rapes your child because you won’t turn over or move or breathe in bed? I became the girl that all boys date but will never marry. I do not want any children. I do not want to blow a beautiful glass bobble that can break once I drop it on the floor. But maybe you can be the one who I crawl to out of the crackling river where I have thrown myself down on the stones hoping to smash my bones into a thousand glass pieces frozen in the water where I won’t feel anything anymore and when the feeling gets too much the feeling gets too much and I, for god’s sake I have no idea why, pull myself out of the water. But I do. And I crawl. Maybe, just maybe I can crawl to you and you can tell me that I am beautiful and everything is going to be okay. And then you can move on to the next girl and I can move on to the next boy until he tells me that I am the girl that everyone dates and never marries and then I can throw myself into the river again and crawl back to you again. See, nobody says that I am revolting; none of the boys ever say that I am revolting, I see this in myself so I crawl to you and then away from you. I watch you walk away, watch you dancing in the arms of another girl before you can see just how revolting I am. That’s when I turn to the next boy and drown my sorrow like I drown myself in the river every night every night in the frozen water I drown myself in someone else and I can’t understand how exactly I am supposed to die. Why am I not dying when I throw myself down into the frozen water? When my skull cracks into a thousand pieces and I am still alive? That is when I can come back to you and maybe you will give me the answer; you will tell me that I am beautiful and that I have to go, there is another girl waiting for you and her skirt is prettier than mine so I need to go but I am still beautiful and I am welcome back any time.



Where are we now…?


◎ Yes

◎ No


(Even the sky changes,

the storm gathers and crashes down.

Reach out


for a new world.)


(You watched the street


in fog




cloud spun



Do you or have you killed or plan on killing:


1. The path ahead Y/N

2. Disease Y/N

3. Bliss Y/N

4. (insert your favorite season here) Y/N

5. Your city Y/N


Altar: Creation


To build an altar you need the familiar territory of a dry riverbed and the shadow of a nuclear power plant. You need the shrill of a siren on the air, the highway in the distance, the skull of a kingfisher and the footprint of someone you don’t love anymore. You need a stone from a hand that killed 15 people in a war far from home, knucklebones that know the fractals of a willow branch and all the sounds of breaking. You need the smells of honeysuckle, salt, and gunpowder, a piece of iron if you’re superstitious. You need the oil slick iridescence of a cockroach wing and a lock of your mother’s hair. You need the cornerstone of a place that makes you feel safe, even if that place isn’t really a place but a notebook, a sheet of paper, or the empty air. You need a poem written by someone you haven’t met yet.

The things you throw away


1. The words you can’t hear.


2. Occurring to the sunlight sneaking through the shut window. (Read: sunlight doesn’t give a fuck about you.)


3. The failure to cast the eyes of the future with graceless abandon. (Read: no one loves you.)


4. All the funny moments you think you have.


5. The definition of justice.


6. The dictionary.


7. All the little poems that are too heavy for you to carry.

An Apocalyptic Daydream


10:15 p.m. the night the sun never set. Clear sky blazing like a promise. People who are used to this kind of thing have it easy, I think. But then again, I’m not used to it at all and I think it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. The sky, I mean. Of course, it’s a living, breathing metaphor for everything coming to an end. Or a false promise. I’m not sure. All I know is the haunted clocktower I pass by every night on my route to work looks beautiful. Yes, I’m still walking to work even though I don’t have to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not actually going to go to work, I just want to get away from everyone. It’s nice, even with the smashing and the gunshots. It’s life. I’m still breathing. The sun is still up there. It’s not going to go away.

Dead Mermaid Singing


I can’t give you lapis less I open

a vein and rupture my organs in

just the right way

staining my blood

in a shade that will say

“I love you more than that hand that gave you your lapis.”


I can’t give you sunset staining a canvas less I open

a vein and clot my obsessions

fall into dusk

with a gesture that screams,

“I love you more than that hand that painted your sunset.”


When the waves call me back

to dance in the foam

you’ll never know how much

I hate my home


and I can’t give you music less I tear

out my throat and fling all my chords

to the sky-loving storm

to play on her way to crash down your door

She’s the only one who knows

I do love you more.


The princess is so pretty

her demeanor is divine

but her love will break in the shadow of mine.


When the waves call me back

to dance in the foam

I would open my veins and my throat

on your shore ever

singing ever

“I do love you more.”




(for Nadia)


There was a body

here before,


skin to skin


the memory

in the hollow

won’t forget.


Now a bird sings.


We can’t believe what is real.



Horoscopes for an Oracle

1. Don’t believe everything they tell you. Fate and coincidence fuck like rats in an internment camp, or rats anywhere else.

2. Things will happen but none of them will be as divine as you hope.

3. Indulge all you want because once you’re dead you won’t care about anything.

4. Some things can’t be rushed, like Fate. Darling father. Beloved mother. Fucking like rats. As their unwelcome children we frequently go without dinner. Or we get eaten. So slow down.

5. Surprisingly, you won’t make any friends this month.

6. Remember, we too are the product of our vision. As blood, bone, gristle that can be gazed upon, everything hidden will be found. Eventually. Everything.

7. (day off, go take a fucking walk)

8. It’s what’s inside that counts. Ex: how your heart pounds against the open sky after you’ve torn it free.

9. Freedom exists in your ability to re-define 10. eventually

11. and everything.

12. Say all the things you need to say.



1. The town got dark, bruise colored; first pale green at the edges then purple with spots of red where blood burst from the vein confine and then darker, the black of abused flesh. Flesh left alive to suffer more.


2. We danced in the dust under bare boughs and between the boney cypress knees. The sky opened up, swallowed comets and everything I’d considered holy. I remember the first time —


— the crack between the horizon and the land.


3. You are lost and looking for me or I am lost and looking for you. When we look away: evidence of what we cannot see frozen in our faces.


4. Some people think that vultures are overindulgent. I think they’re just really, really hungry. Their wings resound through the sky, fill the atmosphere with feathers, but their bellies are never full. One day, they’ll eat the world.


5. Reach for the sky,

for a world

farther from the ground.


6. Air conditioning units on stilts: squat frogs blinking the sky for the mothership.


7. A voice from the hollow, bound to paper with spider web strands of ink that crinkle like the mouth of the happiest person in the world. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, a sad thing.


8. The splendor of sunset,

the bright bloom of morning.

You will see what I see.


9. You can pretend the water is Sienna instead of dirty brown. The blood of the marshland instead of rotting tree stains. Specifically: dirty stains. It’s really like drinking the blood of the land you were born to, but everyone not from round here thinks it’s dirt. So tell them it’s Sienna. Capitol “S.”


10. A voice from the hollow, bound to the fingertips of those who reach through the air and feel for what is hiding there.



Where are we now…?


◎ Yes

◎ No


Do you have or have you had in the past:


1. Perfection Y/N

2. Love Y/N

3. Self-Respect Y/N

4. Lovely smells Y/N

5. Medication Y/N


What you need to take with you


1. Antibiotics you aren’t allergic to.


2. All appropriate documentation. Keep your passport tucked in your underwear. It sounds gross but you’ll thank me later.


3. Anything that helps you sleep. For when your sightseeing gives you nightmares.


4. Bandaids. Emotional and otherwise.


5. A word search, sudoku, or something to keep you occupied without taking too much of your attention.


6. The story of who you are, where you came from, and why you want to live.


7. Bug spray. Seriously, you’ll thank me.


8. Anything you can that will help you tell the story of your experience so that others can re-create the feelings that arose in you, from your experience, in themselves.

Two Travelers


I want us to start a new life


you laugh at me.


Strangled in the grass

a sand fly ebbs

toward the ocean;


I’m scrabbling to catch garbage

like a seagull and eat

torn scraps of map


everywhere I cannot go.

Childhood’s Index


She always laughed when we caught fire.

She killed a baby bird with a sprig of holly and a cement block.

She was my best friend.

He was my first love.

He was afraid of the things I wasn’t.

He threatened to kill my rat.

She hated me but she soon forgot who I was.

She asked me where I’d been in that way that wasn’t asking.

No one wanted me to be friends with her.

He also forgot about me.

He had nice socks.

She came and went and came and went.

She was the only person who always listened.

He wanted to die before making life better.

He died before I could ask him out.

He was the only person who asked me if I was okay.

She didn’t like the way I did things.

He always scared me.

He didn’t make fun of my favorite movie.

He thought I would like something that I didn’t but at least he thought of me.

He might learn how to hate me.

She made fun of my hair.

He played the cello and wanted her to buy him cigarettes. (I wanted to give him mine but he never asked me.)

He survived cancer.

She was jealous of everyone.

He went away.

He didn’t know I could speak.

He kept poking but couldn’t make me cry.

She could spike a mean volleyball.

She lied to me.

She said I was a liar.

She believed I was going to kill someone.

He took “no” way too personally.

He led her on. She never suspected.

She was the only one who read my poetry.

She let her parents push her around.

She didn’t escape.

She didn’t get Dylan Thomas.

She said the Poet Laureate of Virginia was way over her head.

She ate a flower.

He made me cry.

She could never quit smoking.

He tried to impress me by masturbating.

He slammed my hand in a steel door.

His best friend could do no wrong.

He let me play with spray paint. Later, he was embarrassed by his youthful exuberance.

He waited for me.

She hated her body.

She didn’t look like her mother.

She didn’t know how beautiful she was.

He wanted to go home.

She cried all night, every night.

She hated herself more than the people who deserved her hate.

He hated the cold.

She was born on the same day as the city.

She had bad luck.

She thought all rooftops should have swimming pools.

She had a voice like coffee and cigarettes.

He had a voice like a broken window.

She said she liked the look the sharks gave her when they cut through uncharted waters.

He was an officer who knew how to bleed alongside everyone.

He looked for things he could never find.

She looked at me and smiled.

She made hunting noises.

He slept loudly.

She felt alone all the time.



1. A stranger with daffodils.


2. A stranger with no flowers.


3. When I am tired you are awake.


4. When I am awake you are tired.


5. Eating that bad thing.


6. Eating that other bad thing.


7. Not eating anything at all.


8. A body in the road, traveling, but now not traveling.


9. The opossum I ran over.


10. The empty road with no life or lights.


11. The empty bed with no life or lights.

Primer for the Future King


“Stolen fairy tale girls never get to take the easy way.”—SJ Tucker Girl Into Devil (I Belong to Me)


When you say “princess” you mean little girl lost in the darkness, rotting lace and wind whistling through bleach blond bones. Only decay loves a dead girl walking. But when you see this princess tearing through the brambles like she’s on fire don’t even think about getting in her way. She’s got better things to do than talk to you, like get her mother’s severed hands back from the evil kind next door. Or steal lightning from a storm to give to a witch who will make her the sword she needs to kill the other evil king next door. Or kill her father, who is the other, other evil king next door, for trying to marry her because she looks just like her mother and, you know, bloodlines need preservation and all that. Or meet her sisters for a party (after this one quick detour involving pomegranates and 6 months of winter) where they grind their 6-inch stilettos down to the marble and throw their hearts at whoever they want. So when you see her, you’d be stupid not to praise her beauty and bravery. But then let her walk away. She has already learned that princes just don’t pop out of the woods promising kingdoms and kisses without getting a promise back and if you’re not selling what she wants to buy be careful or you might find yourself in a world where you’re another evil king for her hit list and she’s gunning for her happily ever after.

Witch the Third


I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over. I even knew it was a mistake the minute Nobody rode onto our deserted heath, loves clattering in the desolation, dragging war behind him.


My sisters didn’t care about bad omens either, even though the winds sang foul when they came. We are very good at taking punches. And helping Fate dole them out.


Second Eldest sister said men hate what women say no matter the message, no matter if what’s said flies from a witch’s mouth or a queen’s. But First Eldest always rolled her eyes and said, “It’s only what Second Eldest says that men hate because she can’t use her tongue properly. And if I ever catch you using your tongue properly on any man I’ll string you up and use your fillets instead of a fenny snake’s the next time we spin round and round to make spineless, worm-men into kings!”


I never thought any man would ever be able to unseat him who the cauldron showed us to be so perfect. First Eldest said he was perfect. Of course, having a Lady in the castle who knew what she was doing helped too. But she did go mad in the end. First Eldest said to never play with the cauldron alone but the night before all the trees in the wood rose up and stormed the castle I snuck out under the moonlight. It was so bright and the wind howled with the rage of a thousand dead kings gone before; I didn’t care and I saw her on her knees scrubbing her hands raw, screaming about blood and perfume.


When the other man finally came I knew life would not end pleasantly for our perfect king. And I expected weakness from a man not born of any woman but First Eldest loved her allusions and technicalities when she played with Fate and though he got to skip most of the exertion and the screaming, he was not spared any of his mother’s strength. MacBeth certainly screamed something fierce when all his tomorrows were taken from him.

Wife of Lot


What is your real name? I hate being called wife, without a name. I think you do too.


How do you feel with a mouth full of salt instead of the languid, tamarind language of your city? The city that sings to you and you the only one who hears her.


What does she sound like? Soprano or alto? Silk or broken windows? Do the cries of the market slide from her throat like tamarind or salt?


Does the gutter water taste like gutter or peppermint schnapps?


I think I could live married to my city or live lost and alone with no one but my city.


When you died, when your city died, you were looking at each other.


What was that like?

Twisted Myth


They say I took the most beautiful dream in the world and destroyed it. Burned it up and my useless life right along with it. I got exactly what I deserved, what Pride throws out to everyone who fails.


No one remembers we were trapped there too, blind and starving for the open sky.


They said, “Give us your magic or else.”


Or else.


Bloody feathers on the floor. But our wings didn’t break and we flew away and YES

after decades of darkness I flew, unbroken, into that radiant sunrise.


Now they tell you my story with a warning: don’t break the rules or you’ll end up like me, don’t go too far or you’ll end up like me, don’t get too close to what you love and miss the most or you’ll end up like me.


Remember the stories of the heroes Bravery and Hubris brought safely home?


Remember the heroes who tasted victory instead of defeat?


My story is not their story.


Now, because of me they tell you to be cautious, be wary, be afraid.


They tell you: never reach for more than what you are capable of catching; never strive to become your dreams.


They do not tell you the only burning passion I flew too close to was freedom.



With a simple calculation she nods

her head in my direction.


Her cage is the moldy green

of the eyes of a starved cat.


Her teeth are as crooked as the banker’s.

She does not hiss.


Her spine is as stiff as a black

hole’s breakfast;


she moves toward her bars,

ears flat against her skull.


She does not growl.

She does not scream.


She purrs with profound contentment

and I want to eat her.

The Song Ghosts Sing When They Come to Fuck Your Shit Up


Plant the earth with hate and mirth,

curse my home and my family

and when you come to my garden to play,

weep when I spoil your game.


Plant me white roses

I’ll spit them up red,

red for the living,

red for the dead,

red for the meek heart

crying in the dark,

red for the blood on the ground.


Plant the earth with pain and ruin,

curse the ground where I lay down

and when I wake to the April moon,

weep when I harrow your bed.


Plant me white roses

they’ll skyward spring red,

red for the living,

red for the dead,

red for the shattered heart

crying in the dark,

red for your blood on the ground.


Plant the earth with sorry and sorrow

curse your luck and your misery

and when I finally go below,

weep when I drag you with me.


Plant me white roses

I’ll spit them up red,

red for the living,

red for the dead,

red for the wicked heart

crying in the dark,

red for the bloody ground.

What runs away in the night


(for Suzie, Aaron and Bill)


1. Good dreams that never want to wake up.


2. Best friends, unconditional love.


3. Music only cats can hear.


4. Rosemary that refuses to stop growing.


5. All the stories you want to read.


6. All the hours you want to protect.


7. The grey storm streaked with lightning.


8. The soft sounds.



Where are we going…?


◎ Yes

◎ No


Have you ever wanted:


1. More food Y/N

2. A candle Y/N

3. The physical act of creation Y/N

4. All the things you forgot Y/N

5. Immaculate music Y/N

Sky: Another Apocalyptic Daydream


hemlock stained sky

roadkill pelt sky

sky with shadows

that bleed through the corners,

fill up the windows


The sunset is beautiful like a jellyfish is beautiful. Or something equally beautiful that doesn’t disgust you. Not because it’s delicate or ephemeral/effervescent/viridescent but because it floats through the water like a vicious snowflake. (Jellyfish disgust me.)


The sunset is beautiful like a jellyfish is beautiful and it kills everything it touches, slowly, with diaphanous, poisonous rays that float through the sky like arms extending for a cruel embrace.



Take the splintered memory of your father beating you from between your mother’s clenched teeth. If you can still hear his voice, go west. You will come to a ditch cradling a dead cat. If his neck is twisted, proceed north. If his belly is split open like a rotten orange under a motorcycle wheel, go south; you will find the driver’s bloody bootprints scuffing the goldenrod. If you mix the pollen with loose-leaf tobacco and roll a cigarette, your doppelgänger in another universe will be gifted with a front row seat to the next public execution. But that is not the direction you want to go. If you ignore me and walk towards the old Civil War battlefield marked with the city’s slapdash attempts at historical preservation, your old lovers, wherever they are, will turn pale as if a nurse has drawn too much life force away from the abrasive latticework of a failed experimental procedure. (You may taste blood in your mouth.) They will fall to the floor and you will not be there to stroke the languor from their eyelashes. If you don’t see a dead cat, continue west as if nothing has ever gone wrong. You will eventually come to a fork in the road. Or a river. And you must either cut off all your hair or throw your clothes into Salvation Army donation bin that washed up on the riverbank with the rest of the hurricane detritus and proceed with your own body acting as a trembling, neophyte’s compass pointing towards the sharpest point away. If fear grips your ribs so hard they creak and snap against your heart you can choose a different direction. You can run, screaming, back to your home or you can try to walk on water.



About Jessica Halsey


Jessica Halsey was born in Arkansas and has lived most of her life in the United States and Panama. She earned a BA in Sociology from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She has written and self-published two e-poetry collections, which are available for free download on Shakespir.

Connect with Jessica Halsey


Blog: http://www.409poetry.wordpress.com

Instagram: @409poetry

Goodreads: [+ https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14952981.Jessica_Halsey+]


Shakespir Profile: https://www.Shakespir.com/profile/view/409poetry

Shakespir Interview: https://www.Shakespir.com/interview/409poetry

Other Works by Jessica Halsey


Graveyard: https://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/611995



Riverkill: https://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/633473


Twisted Myths

Excerpt: Wife of Lot What is your real name? I hate being called wife, without a name. I think you do too. How do you feel with a mouth full of salt instead of the languid, tamarind language of your city? The city that sings to you and you the only one who hears her. What does she sound like? Soprano or alto? Silk or broken windows? Do the cries of the market slide from her throat like tamarind or salt? Does the gutter water taste like gutter or peppermint schnapps? I think I could live married to my city or live lost and alone with no one but my city. When you died, when your city died, you were looking at each other. What was that like?

  • ISBN: 9781370447558
  • Author: Jessica Halsey
  • Published: 2016-12-28 01:05:15
  • Words: 4815
Twisted Myths Twisted Myths