Cabinet of Monstrosities

“The mind left to itself creates monstrosities…” –Eckhart Tolle 

I partition cabinets for safekeeping monstrosities. Indigo bunting. Star sapphire. Cloud of butterflies. Brass piping culled from a steam calliope. A dismantled demigod dreams in replication, dreams in air compressed through manifold tubes. Don’t break the silence. 

All around the room people are gorging on oysters, spitting pearls into the empty mouths of spent plastic bottles. I envision my body swallowed as a snake. I align my cycles to bleed with the new moon. I shed. A woman is the snake who encircles the world. Exorcise your inner rich boy. 

Perfumed heart of a false fabric flower. Tasseled baton belonging to a majorette. Jars of formaldehyde swimming with glitter. Rainbows textured like crepe paper marbled through clear rubber. Cracked spire and cleft horn of cattle, known vessels fluoresced in St. Elmo’s fire. I pray to blue-violet to lick my curvature. Ionize my mechanism.

I’ve fed the algorithm too many faces under specter of vape smoke. Words are for abstraction, not magic tricks. In this corner, trapdoors carved into walls and other assorted chimera of longing and projection. The adage “you must close one door to open another,” while figuratively compelling, isn’t structurally true. If you can’t give in, give way. 

Open worlds through the lens of a wide mouth canning jar that collapses into itself in silicone accordion folds. My anatomy could be a white hole filling an endless universe. Behold, funnel clouds are the sky finally taking the shape it deserves. 

A woman reenacts Alice in Wonderland in yoga poses. When the text calls to drink, she drinks. When the room offers cake, she sinks in her little teeth. A key too high, a door too small. She swims in her own tears. Learn to taste salt-soaked.

A woman weaves intricate baskets from discarded film strips. The sharp edges leave thicket-scratch cuts on her hands and wrists. I’m not a woman sourced to what’s my own. I’m not a woman eating her people’s dirt. I’m not healing. Hold objects in my basket.

I face a line of migratory songbirds with cotton for eyes. I taxidermy a longnose gar; its ribs retain shape, accept this new batting in place of insides. I use its teeth for needles.  I pin lichen to cork. I stitch stained plant cells between glass sheets, label them in cursive. I open vials regardless of the potential for unleashed poison. I set out trays of polished rock to peer into. See through a thousand plucked eyes. 

Lapis lazuli. Quartz stalagmite. Alkaline batteries weeping potassium hydroxide. Wearable skins of small- to medium-sized woodland mammals, tanned. I encounter a two-headed snake in the wild that’s still digesting its prey. It slips into dry leaves. I’m repulsed but beguiled, like I know it for the miracle it is. The sun is sexless. Shuck the scales bright.  

The Nothing

The nothing wears a flaming crown.

The nothing drinks Zima.

The nothing knocks on my sister’s door and climbs into her, 

The nothing slips my brother a knife.

The nothing gives my brother a wife.

I swallow scarves for the nothing and pull 
them from my throat, relentless.

The nothing breaks horses 
gagged with spit-slick metal bits.

The nothing’s got the gold fever.

The nothing drives a white Lincoln Town Car
with a burgundy leather interior.

The nothing accumulates 8 DUIs and 7 ex-
spouses, sons-of-bitches to a number.

The nothing pulls you into this world
with forceps.

The nothing boils hot dog water for gravy.

The nothing’s outside the bathroom door
when my mom’s father puts his dick in her 3-year-old hands.

The nothing jams balled up socks in her mouth.

The nothing ignores her muffled screams 
when her stepfather rapes her at 15.

The nothing marks you for future abuse 
and then abandons you.

The nothing bruises your body and forgets.

The nothing survives being doused in gasoline.

The nothing palms my matches.

The nothing snuffs faces
from photographs.

The nothing keeps a list of atrocities
and abominations; mountain lions:
they’re on the list.

The nothing is an adherent of trench warfare.

The nothing carries a baseball bat.

The nothing files frivolous lawsuits and wins.

The nothing takes the money.

The nothing takes the money.

The nothing always takes the money.

The nothing haunts me down several highways.

You wake up in a cold sweat next to the nothing
outside a carnival in Florida.

The nothing applies its face before a lighted mirror.

The nothing bathes in baby oil.

The nothing plays “In Heaven There Is No Beer”
on an omnichord during the witching hour.

The nothing hits a royal flush and fans the money 
before you on matted carpeting.

The nothing safeguards an antique harmonica
in a puzzle box.

The nothing plucks its eyebrows to wisps. 

The nothing values thinness.

The nothing eats little.

The nothing lets you starve yourself.

The nothing blacks out and spins nests from sugar.

Having been beautiful, the nothing covets beauty.

The nothing perches on a cushion.

The greatest injustice is that you cannot outlive the nothing.

The nothing emerges from the desert half wraith.

The nothing bears its own fist-shaped wounds.

The nothing’s carpal bones are fused at the wrist.

The nothing walks quietly.

The nothing builds terrariums.

May we all have the grit to openly drag the boat motors
of our would-be rapists across their lawns and into our garages
tarnished in starlight like the nothing.

The nothing scrubs floors on padded knees.

The nothing perfects bread.

The nothing perfects pie crusts.

If a dish comes out imperfect, it goes in the trash;
the nothing accepts no objections.

The nothing coats twigs and pine cones 
in metallic spray paint for meticulous crafts 
you’re not invited to partake in.

The nothing excels at Tiddlywinks.

The nothing sends you home with French toast and jam
to feed you for weeks.

The nothing will not abide you drinking coffee
reheated in a microwave.

The nothing tells you you’re descended from Danish royalty,
the Dark Danes.

The nothing keeps a tidy house.

The nothing gnashes its teeth.

The nothing wears a mouth guard to bed.

The nothing drinks alone in the pines.

The nothing nurses delusions of grandeur.

The nothing does not wish to be called what it is.

The nothing has business ideas.

The nothing is flanked by German shepherds.

The nothing cages a bluebird of happiness.

I try to dispel the nothing by changing my name.

The nothing once sang in a country western band.

The nothing bequeaths you a lacquered guitar.

The nothing is a gifted raconteur.

The nothing leaves cigarettes burning.

The nothing cries only for itself.

The nothing clutches at a gold crucifix around its neck.

Danika Stegeman LeMay’s debut collection of poems, Pilot, is available from Spork Press. She lives in Minneapolis. Her work has appeared in 32 Poems, Afternoon Visitor, CutBank Literary Journal, Forklift, OH, Leavings, Sporklet, and Word for/ Word among other places and is forthcoming in Harpy Hybrid Review and Blue Arrangements. Her video poem, “Then Betelgeuse Reappears” is an official selection for the 2021 Midwest Video Poetry Festival. Her website is

*Image Credit: Petra Collins and Sarah Sitkin, Baron #6