Raised in a renovated slaughterhouse on the outskirts of Wilmington, Ohio, Shannon Ward is currently working on her first collection, Blood Creek. She received an MFA in Poetry from North Carolina State University in 2009 and currently teaches composition at her undergraduate alma mater, Methodist University in Fayetteville. She is the recipient of a 2011 Vermont Studio Center Artist's Grant, the 2009 Bruce and Marge Petesch Fellowship, and the 2007 Longleaf Press Writing Award. Her work has appeared in Tar River Poetry, Marginalia, and Burdock.
Go alone. Before you leave, put the dirty dishes in the fridge so when (if) you return, the roaches won't be squirming in the sink. Teleport to West Virginia. Stop at Starbucks and order a hazelnut latte—skinny—only one squirt of chocolate, three shots of espresso. On the interstate set the cruise control to 90. Listen to the thing you might hear coming from broken windows at an abandoned warehouse. Picture the girls who dance for hours, wearing tiaras made of tinsel and silver pipe cleaners. Who swallow something sparkly, metallic (those tiny, strychnine squares you used to let dissolve on your tongue like the communion wafers they told you were flesh.) Fly past towns tucked into the turnpike, through pluming smokestack clouds and black December night swirling with snowflakes against jaundiced windows, people shivering behind the frosted glass. On Route 35, pull off at a gravel parking lot beside a building made of corrugated metal and a neon sign that flashes yellow: ADULT (an assortment of rigs parked around back). Stop. Find a pen. Write on the back of a map—directions you'll remember to the place you keep trying to forget. Get back on 35—two lanes that coil the mountain like a boa—keep driving till you miss something familiar, the bridge that collapsed one Christmas Eve. A gas station attendant could tell you the year, how his brother's van slid. Drive over the new bridge, through a string of ghost towns, until you find yourself bound and gagged by your own.
How could he have ever been satisfied—
the serrated silver pressed to the pink
skin of the pig's throat—one quick slit,
and then the shrill squeals' screeching halt?
How strangely silent it must have sounded
before the last hot breath bubbling with blood
fell into the bucket below to be carried
off with the flesh—stripped bones
to the creek behind the house. Perhaps
pouring slowly, he found himself consoled
by how, before the color bled to a dull red cloud,
the blood looked like a hundred satin ribbons
floating downstream. And to see those bones sink,
what a relief it must have been.