Copyright © 2013 Pirene's Fountain.


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North Carolina native Terri Kirby Erickson is the award-winning author of three collections of poetry, and the 2013 Leidig Keynote Poet for Emory & Henry College in Virginia.  Her latest book, In the Palms of Angels (Press 53), won a Nautilus Silver Award for Poetry and the Gold Medal in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards.  Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including American Life in Poetry2013 Poet's MarketThe Christian Science Monitor,Verse Daily, JAMA, The North Carolina Literary Review, and many others.  Please visit her website at for more information about her work.

Shapeshifting | Woman on the Dock
The Man Who Cuts His Grass with Nail Scissors



Next to you in the night, I am as far
from my human self as I ever can be—
uncaring of death, fearless in a way that eludes
me when the sun rises and this nest
of ours is flooded with light.  Here in the dark, the animal
that rests patiently within me through
the long hours of the day,
begins to stir.  For her, nothing matters
but the warm silk of your skin, the rhythm of your breath,
the scent on the sheets from our last coupling. 
And when sleep finally comes, she slips into it as if sleep
is a kind of water—
and there is no such thing as drowning.


Woman on the Dock

Early morning, the sun looks like the last butter cookie
on a blue plate of sky.  Gulls are swarming
over the channel the way bees will, around an empty
Coke can that still smells of sugar.  Somewhere in the water,
a fish is swimming through silt and seaweed, a ray or two of light
flickering on its gills like flames.  In five minutes it will find my bait,
maybe ten.  I am optimistic.  And when it bites, the line
will feel like one long nerve connecting the fish’s body
to mine as if I’ve already scaled, gutted,
cooked and swallowed it—making it as much a part
of what I am as my arms, my hands.  Then the ocean will live
inside of me, the salt of it, the cool,
the way it kisses the coastline some days and pounds it like a fist
on others.  I can be a wave, a tide.  I can wait for a fish
as long as it takes to catch it.


The Man Who Cuts His Grass
with Nail Scissors

On a corner lot in Buena Vista, lives
a man who cuts his grass
with nail scissors.  

He is very thin, and can curl his body
into many shapes, like the hands
of a shadow puppeteer—

or a boy used to settling
into lockers where he’s been shoved,
waiting hours

to be rescued.  His gaze never veers
to passing cars, nor do greetings
from his neighbors

get an answer.  Lopping off the heads
of every clover, squaring the tips
of every blade takes

time, but he clips until the lawn is level—
the way that playing fields
have never been, or ever will be.