The Daughter of No One

by Janet McAdams

A gold crown lifted and left in the forest.

A black dog with a secret.

Reeds braided into a basket filled with tobacco leaves. Like
postcards from a voyage to the New World.

Hard water clogging tap, drain, the shower where you will never get clean.

The tobacco leaves lie down like a carpet.

In the jungle’s green yellow: animals cackle and hoot, stealing the girl child.

She learns to tear meat with her sharp baby teeth.


The Daughter of No One
In the left-hand doorway
touches a finger to her lips
in warning.

Her face is a dried apple of sorrow.
Not the apples the terror trees
tossed at us, Scarecrow.

Here is a box of parts for the asking:
wooden whistle,
heart that looks like velvet
but is red fur, matted, a smell of flesh rising.


If you want this story, you must bargain me down.


the way

a suitcase, stored for months,
will shift and sigh without warning


Will shift and sigh over the hard bargain
the delicate Ah–

Half a cough, an ahem of pleasure.
Spelled out like an alphabet

A calendar in x’s and y’s.

Here are the rules for dreaming:
a schedule for the day after sleeping.


Clap of thunder, yellow stream of
dust, rough oval of sweat

on a man’s gray shirt .
Yellow rose on the bank.

on the bank of the creek thick with blood.
Hide, carcass,

dragged out the cellar door.
I had flesh beneath my fingernails. I had

sinew caught between my teeth.


Flat, the world pressed out of breath. Breathing:

O, sigh me back to sorrow
I am so sick of tomorrow.

Bring me a feather, a leaf, a bowl
filled with jelly.

Whistle, purse, castigate, loll. O, my helpless one,
your life, your silly life. I am the milly-

molly of your strongest desire, your
Personal Pinnochio.


Red ribbon on a girl’s tender neck.

Not cloth, but blood. O let
the head not topple, let

the red be anything but.
Seven golden curls: give one to each brother.

Come under
the gathering — I am sick

of my bag of tricks
clouds. Soft as velvet

the shrinking map of discovery
where white horses

of waves
ride the sea down to sand.