IBA cover

By April Michelle Bratten


The first time Kyle punched me,
he did it on the thigh.

He said he imagined
bashing my head in
with a hammer
on a quiet evening
in the summer.

I asked him then,
what is the point
of banging through a

He kept trying
to kill me anyway,
usually on
Saturday nights,
after the booze ran
lukewarm and thin,
the music sputtered
and dulled out,
and his boiling eyes
caught me red-cunted,
turned me translucent.

He did it because his socks weren’t sparkling white.
He did it because I had the mean face of a fish.
He did it because he simply ran out of things to say.
He did it because he felt like it.
He did it again and again until his hands unscrewed
and returned to feathers.

The last time Kyle punched me,
the ghost left the house.

I followed her,
that see-through girl,
all over town
until she stopped
by the woods
and held out a hand
full of leaves.

She was blue,
or maybe it was just the sky
behind her,
but she was there
and she was grinning
like a goon.


My mouth has turned graveyard,
as if death could carry me,
as if I could carry death,
as if I could crawl bare kneed
to save the sparrow.

I am not woman enough
to fall asleep near the wild onion root,
to carry a boy
inside my mother-parts,
to guide an attentive heart
around the sad curve
of flown pale eyes,
or to love the hand that finds my own.

I have found no solace for this
in lost languages,
and I do not wish to speak
of the ghost I know
who clings my legs,
or the warm tickle of little fingers
that pool the elbow.

Instead I heap beds of dirt
inside my womb
(good enough for no-thing
to rest a tired head)

to keep the worms hungry,
to keep the hair grown wild,
to keep the glass broken,
to keep the egg as my own,

to stomach the makers with
their loud beating wings.


I have never seen frangipani, ghost orchids,
or the milk that slides from the root.

I have wasted too much time sniffing in gardens,
pissing in jars.

I want to hear the sun tip-toe down my stairs,
a soft bladder in its teeth.

It will creep. It will slow its big shining feet. It will bite.

The rain will dribble on the stairs until morning.

Today’s poems are from It Broke Anyway (NeoPoiesis Press, © 2012 by April Michelle Bratten), and appear here today with permission from the poet.

It Broke Anyway, which pays homage to the trials and tribulations of women, reminds me of the Bob Dylan Song, “Just Like a Woman,” except that Bratten’s characters never break just like little girls. Instead she creates multidimensional characters who will remind you of your sister, mother, grandmothers, aunts, girl friends and most notably yourself. Bratten’s cunning parallels, chilling narratives, and haunting endings remind us what breaks is often more epochal than what remains intact.”
– Rebecca Schumejda, author of Cadillac Men

April Michelle Bratten was born in Marrero, Louisiana. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Minot State University in Minot, North Dakota. April was a finalist for the Best of the Net award in 2009 and was nominated again in 2010. She was also nominated for the 2010 Pushcart Prize. Her work has been widely published in both print and online, including the journals Istanbul Literary Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, San Pedro River Review, Southeast Review, Gutter Eloquence, Kill Poet, The Orange Room Review, and Dark Sky Magazine among others. She co-edits and writes book reviews for the online literary journal Up the Staircase Quarterly, which can be found at

Editor’s Note: April Michelle Bratten’s It Broke Anyway is a book in the shape of a girl. A girl who dredged herself up from the mud, the blood, the broken. It is a voice in the shape of a dry scratch, a moan, a haunting. It is vengeance and clarity freed from shattered glass. Here lies a world carved out of American Gothic, hauled up from the Deep South, the world Kate Durbin spoke of when she warned, “Not a world for little girls.”

Bratten’s tales take the shape of folkloric vignettes that speak for a thousand female voices, while her personal confessions are clear, raw, and brutally honest. This is a book wrenched from the darkness of lived experience, of survival. This is a book that “was born / next to a trolley car / in the deep south,” written by a poet who is “only a wish, / blown from the seeds of the dying dandelion,” where poems “have scribbled secrets / across their white backs.”

At times the persona of the poet takes the shape of the grotesque or the fantastical in an effort to honestly convey the inner life on the page: “I have antlers, / antlers that bow over my table, obscene protrusions, / dark and magnificent;” “I will not become picturesque / or tame, / because in this moment, / I remain, / wanting;” “I want to squeeze the reasons from her throat, / make her explain why, at 25, / I dug my fingers inside my own chest, and began to eat;” “I stand on a pile of soot with a devil. / He tells me I am the damned.” This voluminous text is at once a healing and a purging because “When a book goes unread it turns into a body, / a woman, / a dry poison.”

Want to see more by April Michelle Bratten?
Buy It Broke Anyway on Amazon
Author Page @ NeoPoiesis Press
Up the Staircase Quarterly

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