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Samuel Piccone

Things I Wish I Told My Mother

Thank you for rescuing me from Clint's trailer

on the Wilhelm family junkyard
out near the Uncompahgre River. 


       I didn't have fun at his birthday party.
       I shouldn't have slept over there.
       You were right not to like him.

He traps junkyard crows. 
Keeps them in a silver cage
atop an old cattle ramp.

       I think their song 
       sounds so painful,
       like death is talking for them.

I'm only eight and I think
I'm already afraid of the world 
and embarrassed to say so.

       Clint showed me 
       how to hold crows 
       like bouquets of flowers

and pry open their beaks 
with scissor blades-their tongues 
pink needles.

       It will be hard to forget
       how bird blood is black.
       Did you know you're supposed to

cut their tongues out? Clint says
it's the only way to teach them 
how to talk.


Confabulation Theory

The triangles of her broken body
under a white sheet

looked just like my fighter kite 
after its spine snapped.

A red gash of nylon, 
a crumbled heap in the road.

I don't remember her windshield shattering
as she flew through glass,

my father leaving my side
to run toward the wreckage.

But what if memory is more like sonar, 
a bat clicking through darkness

over an empty ballfield 
mistaking every blade of grass

for a fallen moth? What if 
truth only takes the forms we need?

I know ambulance lights reflected in motor oil
look like tail ribbons.

I know tearstains against my father's white t-shirt, 
the scrape of his hands against my cheek

as he knelt down and whispered
It's only a kite. 


Desert locusts flood 
           the old irrigation ditch.

I have mother's mason jars 
           set as snares,

father's fishing tweezers 
           to curl around their abdomens.

When pinned just right, 
           the crease between thorax

and head reveals a path
           to blood, hearts mid-beat.

When I see
           how full of life they are,

I want pins pushed
           through me.





-from Pupa, winner of the 2017 Rick Campbell Chapbook Prize with Anhinga Press, selected by Tyree Daye, POW Guest Editor Fall 2018

​PROMPT: In Samuel Piccone's "Things I Wish I Told My Mother," his speaker recalls a childhood friend, Clint, who captures crows and pries open their beaks with scissor blades as "the only way to teach them / how to talk" is to cut out their tongues. It is a disturbing poem about a unique childhood memory and the speaker's realization that he should have taken his mother's worries about Clint more seriously. Whether harrowing or heartwarming, we all have things we wish we could tell our parents. Write your own poem based on this premise: what do you wish your parents knew about you? About what they provided or failed to provide when you were young and at your most vulnerable? -by Associate Editor Amie Whittemore


BIO: Samuel Piccone is the author of the chapbook Pupa, which was awarded Editors’ Choice in the 2017 Rick Campbell Chapbook Prize with Anhinga Press. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including, The Southeast Review, Passages North, American Literary Review, and Midwestern Gothic. He received an MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University and serves on the poetry staff at Raleigh Review. Currently, he resides and teaches in Nevada. 

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