Twisted Stranger

by Sara Backer

Her mother-in-law set her up to fail
with the task of mending all the broken arrows
with which her crazy son shot people in the heart,
and after that, to sort a barn full of seeds: lentils,
barley, poppy, wheat—good seeds, bad seeds,
seeds of hope and destruction.

Successful Psyche, assisted by a patient aunt,
stays up all night sifting the details of her life:
this ex-boyfriend paired with that ex-boyfriend
(not so different after all), organizing her vices and virtues,
learning that lentils come in red and black and green.

Alternate Psyche refuses this boring chore.
Her sisters were the ones who tempted her to shed light
on the twisted stranger she married in the dark—blame them!
Blame her father for treating her like money!
Blame her mother for tying her to that cliff for the monster to take!

Alternate Psyche has a different plan. She douses herself with rum,
and tweets about her imminent departure. Can’t wait to leave
this rolling globe of glop. Curse those who made me suffer.

She drinks a tornado and blows the barn door into splinters.
No one survives: not the gentle cows, or faithful horses,
or selfish sheep. She doesn’t care who screams or bleeds.
The silo falls and shatters, seeds spraying in all directions.
She floods the carnage with gasoline and flicks her lighter.
Her last look is not at what she has laid to waste
but the eye of the flame that will burn her pain to ash.

Sara Backer teaches writing at UMass Lowell and leads a reading group in a men’s prison. Her surreal poems recently appear (or will soon) in Allegro, Crannóg, Gargoyle, Hermes Journal, The Pedestal, and Dreams + Nightmares. Follow her on Twitter @BackerSara or

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