Selections from <i>Purgatory</i> by Donora Hillard


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Selections from Purgatory by Donora Hillard


Chorus from the Land of Grownups

Sheís stapled her plaid skirt shut. I want to ask who the glitter glue-on nails I found under a desk belonged to, whose clot of blood it was I smeared with my shoe in the restroom. I visited it days later. It had dried and flaked, as if scratched with a fingernail.

There's a lesson in the cafeteria on how to sit. (Don't straddle.) There's also a Student Council meeting about ways to get the boys to stop chewing tobacco and jerking off in the lav between classes. Theyíve been writing on the walls with themselves.


While rushing back to the man she lives with but is not married to, she almost hits and kills a child riding a bicycle.

(the young skull denting pavement, the cracked, slippery shell sliding between her palms)

After, she thinks of the boy who can say pussy and thank you in one deadly sentence, a pearl of want in her throat.


The air hitches as the father lurches in. Pop, the boy says.
Pop slurs an Is he behaviní?, paws the fridge. The boy shrinks
sixteen years and six feet, six inches down to a dollís frame,
whispers Sorry. Forgive me for wanting to have birthed him
then. He must throw himself into this world of men, wailing.

Most Accidents Occur Close to Home

The dean is to my left. He consults the ceiling, puffs his cheeks. His knees bounce as though he is cold. No one can control the temperature in this building. I look down at my hands. There is gore on my nails from shredding my lips, a nervous habit.

The principal is seated across from us. Her wardrobe has earned her the nickname Couch Killer. There are papers across her desk. Her glasses glint. Students were heard discussing one of your poems. She wonít say which one or what students.

Both the superintendent and Catholic Identity Committee, who wrote an angry letter to the bishop about a novel since it was titled The Patron Saint of Butterflies, need to read it. My contract will not be renewed for next term, and I may be let go sooner.

Why couldnít you have written something nice. I donít answer. He was middle-aged, uncircumcised, and hairless. He bound my ankles and wrists together with twine. He clamped clothespins on my nipples and then raped me with a white candle.

The principal produces a tissue box in a sweeping gesture. They have nothing further. I see my boss in the hallway, her breasts pendulous. It is casual Friday. She sneers at me. I just canít handle anything else this morning, she says. Not one more thing.

I will prepare to leave here. I will sell my rings, Clorox my skin, avoid all collisions. There will be nothing left to mark my departure. No muscle, knucklebone, or glass eye. Nothing to cut out or pray for. I will soon forget the sound of their howling.

Donora Hillard is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection Theology of the Body as well as Exhibition (Gold Wake Press, 2008), Bone Cages: A Lyric Memoir (BlazeVox [books], 2007), Parapherna (dancing girl press, 2006), and others. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Night Train, The Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction, Pebble Lake Review, Segue, and elsewhere. She has taught writing at Penn State University and now lives in Detroit, where she is a PhD candidate in English at Wayne State University.