Alysse Kathleen McCanna

Spotlight: Husband Ghazal / Reckoning


Husband Ghazal

He who cuts the head from the chicken gets the heaping plate; he breaks a wing
with a quick snap, slurps marrow, gravy dripping. He falls asleep without swinging. We sing.

I am wrist-bound to static eternity—like Daphne, but a plastic houseplant. Don’t
put your hair up he says as he slinks to the bedroom, eyes red, puffed like bee stings.

If a neck is honey, pour hot tea until I dissolve, singed red like scars, like cut kisses, like the moon
sliced into slivers; soon I will turn night-animal: bat, fox, owl, wolf; hungry, screeching.

Husband, will you pass the cherry pie and the knife, the one I like? Let me have it, let me touch
its Damascus, its topographic skin. Why must you hide it? I cling to your ankles, beseeching.

His first wife is late, yet arrives everywhere. We share the same feet, dog, hair, skin, and bear
of a man. I will her forgotten, but she remains. And now the hallway needs sweeping.

The children grow tall as my belly extends, spine bending—if ever Time sat on my lap,
he would laugh at my heart’s leaping. I don’t want to be the mother who jumped, reaching.

In my dream that night he says Wife, I sell you to yourself and I reply I purchase. My purse is thick
with petals. I push them in his mouth until full, but he never quiets, still, always, preaching.



I have washed the scarf,
the last thing that smelled like him.
I have cried into

The washing machine,
cruel arms twisting, the red sock
leaking. I have been

To the lake, crunched leaves.
I have gotten wet in cold
water, I forgave

My heart for breaking
him, but my hands, I cannot
stand to see them so

Full of nothing, light.
The scarf of him, the last I
had, pure now and warm

Around my neck, his
words a shawl, not dying
after all.


Alysse Kathleen McCanna Alysse Kathleen McCanna is a PhD student in English at Oklahoma State University. She received her MFA in writing and literature from Bennington College in 2015. She is the associate editor of Pilgrimage Magazine; her work has appeared in several poetry journals and won a 2017 Academy of American Poets prize (, and is forthcoming in Barrow Street, and Four Chambers.