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Call Your Mother—Valium

Tell me how the nervous system collapses 

each wire catastrophic and dumb 

how, when the lights get cut off 

mouths open and close, 

missing teeth 

missing limbs 

missing vowels mealy

anise-shaped explosions 

fine dust of smoke 

this city’s vibration 

tuned down and musty

I have been waiting for you all these years 

to come back home to me

            come on home to me

Remember the love electric 

youth, and its lies, 

            sizzle in my ear anyway 

Today we are thinking the same thoughts 

of what it means when we say war, when we say terrorism,

missing sinew

missing eyes, closed and dreaming 

missing synapses that say This I have done or 

will do or wait

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Call Your Mother—Rohypnol

Under the streetlight, on the abandoned corner
where no one walks anymore a kind of sanctimonious 

urging, here is a tree that has died long ago, 
count its rings and tell me otherwise. 

Here, we sit on its stump and wait, 
carve our names in its bark, try to remember 

what it was like to love longer than the time 
taken to find the intersection, secure the bag. 

There are men in the shadows of the trees, 
lurk and lark, branches a touch too heavy 

to be springtime birth. How the lichen 
once arrived spreads, unruly, terminal. 

How the ivy chokes. There are men 
in the cracks of the awnings, in the windows 

of the buildings, there are men who hide 
themselves deep in our blood and, in wait, 

rot us from the inside out. There are men 
curling under the roots of this tree, 

into the dirt, to the core of the Earth 
where they tap their big feet impatiently, 

as if it is your fault planets exist to begin with. 
Won’t you come already, they will say, 

aren’t you ready already, already, already, 
nevermind, I don’t care, tap, eye roll, tap. 

These are the men your mother 
warned you about. Don’t go, 

the tree is never as beautiful as they claim it is. 
The night is not clear.

There are always clouds
covering the stars.

your drink. 

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Call Your Mother—Klonopin

I’m fucking freaking out 

the blue glow of nothingness 

the wonderment of rain 

how the slightest movement sends 

                                    my heart   my heart   my heart 

to feel everything, unfettered 

the soundproof of snow

the plant of rust

the yellow of civility     how I speak to each tendril saying I love you 

                                     kiss leaf   kiss leaf   kiss leaf 

so tired in burn, in core 

the glitter of the walk 

the paleness of morning 

how the phantasm works

                                    I love this world more than you, you say 

                                    I love it more than you will ever know 

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Call Your Mother—Halcion

When no more left but hollow 

A ventricle tomb, the smallest graveyard 

On the largest city block 

In the World’s Richest Nation 

How here in this patch of nothingness 

We sit and wait for a dance to envelope

And shake our bones in bags like dice 

Shake our bones in bags and throw them 

Read them, Divine them, Here is a future 

We are trying to forget about or 

A future we have every foot in or 

A past so holy the background seems fake 

How can everything be so green, you say

How can the clouds hang so low

Move so fast, Look, you say, 

They are hauling ass across the sky 

Lower and lower, eventually 

Swallowing every tombstone, dates 

And names askew 

How here on the gothic Earth 

We quickly forget what it was like 

To make our mothers cry 

And wait up for us 

And fret wringing their soft hands 

Together praying the rosary

That we were not now living

Amongst the rows of crosses

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Call Your Mother—Ativan

I’m trying to leave the birds out,

but what if the only calming things

are murmurations 

of every starling that ever lived 

making nests in my heart 

and in this life span of affiliation 

I see it all clearly—how a wing 

can be both freedom and curse, 

how the throat constricts 

as pollen count rises 

and I raise my hand 

to catch buds like snow. 

What I mean is, 

I went to the edge today 

and looked for you, 

hand over eyes 

a shield I am accustom to, 

and all I heard 

was a circular saw 

in a ouroboros fashion, 

waves of whine 

girth of steady tips of fingers 

falling into woodchips.

A slight screamy breeze: help me

into the manmade lake. 

All power is lost

when I can see to the other side of it. 

I feel best 

when I don’t know

the ending from the beginning. 

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Call Your Mother–Demerol

These windows work well, keep the outside 

and inside out—cicadas bloom and die, their skins 

litter the low hanging magnolia like fruits, 

a pile shiny on thick green leaves yet to purple. 

Here is my pain. I am sick, and suffering, 

and the world around me is too, for a while, 

until, it is no longer. Five bangs, wop, wop, 

either bedroom wall or gun in sky outside 

the fence—who knows where the bullet 

will drop or through. In imagination, 

it’s always during sex the force will explode 

the head above me. And then the blood. 

Tomorrow, there will be a heat index in April, 

a sweet southern sunshine,  

will watch dragonflies connect by organs 

fly together and land on the pane—

their copulation seemingly endless. 

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RAT QUEEN by Katie Jean Shinkle is now available in our handmade chapbook series


RAT QUEEN Katie Jean Shinkle

$10.00 $6.00

Dec 2019
6 x 9 |  24 pages

Handprinted linocut cover
Gold metallic Cranfield Traditional Relief Ink on cream 80 lb cover
Digitally printed interior on cream opaque 70 lb text
Hand sewn in natural twine

Note: Individually printed by hand in small batches, no two covers will be exactly alike. Expect minor variations across the edition.

Limited to 150 numbered copies

Volume 4: Issue 4 (2019)
ISSN 2373-163X

The eighteen poems in Rat Queen luxuriantly explore transgression and intimacy, the various ways we take each other eagerly apart and taxidermy ourselves back together again. “My dear, what muscularly defines you?” the speaker asks, “When I pin you like insect wings, / corked-fog and iridescent-under.”

Rat Queen is the fourth chapbook in the 2019–2020 series from Bloof Books. Each chapbook in the series is released in a limited edition of at least one hundred numbered copies, followed by a digital release, and eventually in a combination volume called Bound. 

This is Katie Jean Shinkle’s fifth chapbook. She is an Assistant Professor in the MFA Program for Creative Writing, Editing, and Publishing at Sam Houston State University. She is the author of three full-length works, most recently Ruination (Spuyten Duyvil, 2018). Her poetry, prose, and criticisms can be found in Flaunt Magazine, the Georgia ReviewDenver QuarterlyNew South, the Collagist, Washington Square Review, and elsewhere. She serves as associate fiction editor of ANMLY, co-poetry editor of DIAGRAM.

SKU: RAT Category: Tag:


Excerpt RAT QUEEN Let me cry 1,000,000 tears of gold, weave tapestry-strands with vigor, douse your open heart with champagne, only the best, most expensive will do. Show me Benjamin Franklin, fanned out to cool, I will show people you forget along the way. Tell me, while at my feet, how the bank of booze is vampiric and fanged. The equation of who will perish first, (w)hol(l)y simplistic: You, knee-crouched, or me, hands in prayer, eyes transfixed? So funny what we cling to, not giggles or open-mouth hardy, but uncanny, filled to the brim.

Additional information


Shinkle, Katie Jean


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