Poem of the Week | April 09, 2018

This week, we are proud to present a new poem by Jessica Ankeny. Ankeny’s poems can be found in Cincinnati Review, Cimarron Review, Spillway, and elsewhere. She is the poetry editor at the newly born lit mag The Black Rabbit Review, and her chapbook, One Simple Step to Keeping a Clean Gun, lives at Dancing Girl Press. Ankeny won a fellowship to the Idyllwild Writers Week in 2017, was a Poetry Fellow for the WxW Tomales Bay Workshop in 2016 and 2017, and a Poetry Fellow for the A Room of Her Own Retreat in 2015. She lives in Los Angeles with her cat, Mr. Joni Mitchell.


My brother thought it was
the hot water burning
until he turned the sponge
and that brown body hung
stinger out ready to go
again. If he had shocked
himself with a cattle prod
the poison would have stopped,
but we haven’t been ranchers
for a generation, and no one
had one. His arm tingled
for a month like it was just waking up
and his finger was numb
for 6 more. Did you know
that scorpions glow
in black light? At bible camp
one night we saw
the church lit up with it
and watched hundreds of them electric
and scattering. They glowed
that white-blue of the hottest
fire, waves of neon in the dark.
When the sun came up and we sang
praises in that church
I thought of them sleeping inside
and out, stingers curled
against themselves, ready
to wake up and live again.

Author’s Note:

This poem came from a conversation I had with someone who was curious about growing up in the desert. She said everyone I knew must have a scorpion war story, but it just wasn’t true. My brother was the only person in my family who was stung (except for an aunt who on two separate occasions was stung on her bare butt!), although we did see scorpions around and inside of our home. It is easy to confuse what is dangerous with what is not. What should be vilified with what should not. There were painful things happening to me in church, and I envied the scorpions. They were beautiful. They were free.