Ruth Williams


In the woods, the girls and I
collect pine cones, run our fingers
over the pricking edge.
Anticipating the moment
the cone expands.

Here, little disaster.
Here, little cuts.

Our mothers told us
if a man smiles
too wide, don’t
focus on his mouth.
Teeth straight and white
so you see them
even when you blink.

When the lone boy
pins one of us down, we laugh
like the sound of bats
high in the rafters, knocking
tongues against teeth.

Knowing the moment
he goes dark,
a survival instinct.

Lashing out
like the old, rabid cat
left in the garage
for having been bitten
by a wild thing. We want to know
how to strangle ourselves
softly, slowly.

It’s not our fault. Even the cat
grew strange. Jumping
at shadows
her claws dulled
batting the walls,
unable to recognize
her natural enemy.

Ruth Williams is the author of a poetry collection, Flatlands (Black Lawrence Press, 2018), and two chapbooks Nursewifery (Jacar Press, 2019) and Conveyance (Dancing Girl Press, 2012). Currently, she is an Associate Professor of English at William Jewell College and an Editor for Bear Review.