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Category archive for: Kathryn Nuernberger

The Saint-Girl’s Sweetest Tortures

The saint-girl remains careful not to want, to keep the heat low and drink un-caffeinated tea with her mittens on. Even when the tiny, infesting devils hurtle their pitchforks across her kitchen counter. To peel a peach is a violence she grieves in a small flame of devil-whipped silence. They grieve nothing, especially not acetic middle age or perpetual girlhood or self-imposed naïveté. Without shame they skip, sopping wet and dripping peach, all over the piano keys, spark their nervy little tails in sockets, fornicate in cereal bowls. Adult and handsome devils, ram-faced with pearlescent horns, graze past her mailbox to scratch their thorn-tipped tails along her letters like a match.

A moment of weakness: “Could you please whisper your perversities more quietly?” she rages as they blink her lights and wave glowsticks. Her novel of manners hits the floor. “No more about red lips or cocks. I’m trying to edify my human spirit.” The devils feign timidity and purr apologies around her legs. And now satisfaction is a sulfur in her stomach. She holds herself out to the smallest one, who had been leaking crocodile tears in the tea cup. His suckling stings a little pleasure, but maybe, she thinks, it is not wrong to nurse your demons until you bleed.

The devils were mosquitoes then in her ear – Why can’t you? Why can’t you? To answer is to swallow one by mistake. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Her larynx itches with capitulation. Dimpled devil apples of my eye.

from The End of Pink

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2016
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

The End of Pink

My nipples are brown now.

One way to describe me is mouse-

like. Like fur on the one decapitated

in the silverware drawer this morning.

Once we set a trap for a mouse

so fat the hinge could do no more

than pinch his neck contorted.

for hours he clinked around the spoons.

If you survive your own execution,

the only justice is that you be permitted

to walk away with your decapitated

head in your hands, as Saint Denis did,

up the hill into the chapel of the rest

of his life, where we would come

to eat sandwiches on a bench,

holding hands as we would when we took

the mouse to a grassy lot in the alley

behind the First Presbyterian.

Because a hawk noticed and became

restless on his branch, we stood guard

watching the mouse try to organize

himself. It’s disgusting to touch

a rodent, so we used tongs to straighten

the sideways spine trapped so

unaccountably wrong. The fat creature

limped himself into the yellow grass

and further, the bird moved on,

and we went home to dinner happy,

knowing happy for the mouse was

unlikely, but then so was Denis—

how wide-eyed he must have been!

When I told Brian about my nipples,

he told me a little joke: A boy was in

a terrible accident. He finally woke

in the hospital and cried, “Doctor!

I can’t feel my legs!” The doctor

was reassuring, “Of course you can’t.

We had to amputate your arms.”

from The End of Pink

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2016
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

I Concede the Point, I Concede the Point, I Concede the Point

A Man is a flesh monster with a mouthful of teeth in his scrotum. Haven’t you seen the mouth of a man? I know it’s there because when a man told me he thought my vagina had teeth, I wondered how a person could come to think such a thing.

When I love a man it’s like watching a wrestling match on the beach. We’re standing at the rope and there are our mouths jaw-locked and tussling like badgers without bodies.

A Man called me a man-hater once. I didn’t hate men before, but I did after. Before, a man made me dolorous, now A Man is invigorating. Thanks, I thank you for this.

There was a time when A Man called me a man-eater. I am very fond of that appellation. You have no idea.

Even though people talk about rape as a matter of course, I was a woman with eye teeth before I understood that they might be talking about me. A Man on the front porch of a frat called out, “Why don’t you come up here and get raped!” A Man laughed. A Man waited for another woman to walk on the sidewalk. A Man tried his joke again. “Why don’t you come up here and get raped!” A Man thinks he’s clever.

A Man is staggering out of the bar on game day to catcall me across the street and then he is answering the aggression of my old-lady scolding glare with a hand pumping his own crotch. A Man walking next to me on game day gets so hung up on his personal experiences that he desperately wants to explain this misbehavior as boyish and age-appropriate. A Man can’t get his mind around the fact that I do not care to give a fuck about A Man again, beyond figuring out how to make him and his friends feel a shame so great they start to wonder if they aren’t fourteen-year-old girls sent by the teacher to the confessional because of a list found in some boy’s locker.

Ever since I started itching for A Man passing me on the street to say “Smile, honey” just one more time, men have taken up demure nodding. A Man can tell when a woman is looking for an opportunity.

A Man is candid. A Man is live-action. A Man thinks he doesn’t have a fleshy hairball of teeth. But I can hear them clicking down there. A Man thinks he knows where he’s keeping his tongue. It’s not for me to argue with A Man about where he imagines he’s put it.

from The End of Pink

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2016
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.