Games I played as a child

were twisted off

the cob: violence

portioned in little hands.

Hiding in clothes hampers

tucked like birds

sucking it in to protect

was to play. I am surprised

we didn’t bite

other kids at school. I fall

in love with therapists

and the thought of cutting

off their smile rays and

endorphin and serotonin

showers brings me

dark blues. I want to

make them Christmas gifts

and handwrite long letters.


            :           :           :


I was suicidality. It sounds

like potentiated

seesaw: I might leave

the house and look

to my neighbors, market-

bound. I might make

it through another day,

then another.

I am sawing

inside trees down.

The trees are howling

and pissing themselves

with fear.




Ghosty Boo brushes my

hair from my face and coos.


            :           :           :


Dedicated Ghosty Slueth

dons her cigarette. She is 12.


It is just addition and subtraction. Take one

kiss from your mom,

then tie it to reactions years later:

crossing her face out

of your private albums with


The tongue.


Ghosty Boo bows



            :           :           :


This is a top-down mechanism

with magical animals

that photobomb

my subconscious to shake down

murky answers.

The goal is to feel sad

for Ghosty Boo and to dig dirt.

Leave me new but not

baby fresh.

I don’t know if I’ll ever feel safe

with babies.


            :           :           :



Sleuth and ye shall find!

Let’s make it a memory

game: who can remember most

terse physical. BINGO!


I remember:

being slut-shamed pre-


That word: slut; being afraid

of all men, assuming they’d

beat me and tie me up

and leave me like that.


            :           :           :


One time, I got stuck in

an elevator with a drunk

bro and I held

my breath all 19

flights up.

One time I grew


and hooves.


Maybe someone dropped you

in an elevator when you were a baby!


Dropped me on a

dick in an elevator?


Ghosty Boo nods.


I sprouted


in that elevator and every

day since.


Ghosty ruminates, then bounces.


No. No no no, silly. Fear

of sex and fear

of beating are equated in

your mind; because you lacked

attachment as a child, all touch

feels like abuse.


            :           :           :


I used to sing

about boys I crushed on.

I’d walk our backland alone

discussing which boys

liked me and feign surprise

to sound polite.

It felt real

good. I made a

lot of marker art

in my bedroom on my

little kid’s desk.

A big adult desk lived on

concrete in the basement.

I sat at that desk and

cybersexed with adult

men--my AIM

screenname ended with “05,”

the year I would graduate

from high school.

Neon buzzbait jailsign.

My mom discovered the

minimized cybering window

and told me off the same way

as when I printed out

a pentagram with the phrase

not all girls are good girls:

“you know this

isn’t okay? Okay.”

When I got my period

at 10, I raided

the “prep pack” the elementary school

had mailed to all fourth

grade girls. I hid my bloody

cotton underwear beneath the toolshed

to decompose.

So embarrassed of my

pussy and its needs.

When our dog ran away, I’d stay up

praying to God that she would come

home safe. Night was never

still or silent in my terror

home, and if I hear

“Bridge Over Troubled

Water” ever again at 2AM

I will retch tears from my bilebag.


It’s fine it’s fine it’s fine it’s fine.


No one is sorry.


            :           :           :


Open places of safety:

back yards,

farms, lakes and

ponds, nourishing meals.


Scary, closed:


showers, mirrors.


Terror rooms:

night terrors about the room

with the thin carpet on

concrete where there are meat

hooks hanging from the ceiling,

sudden fear of being

touched so much that

I revert to preverbal, recurring

dream where

the back yard is covered

with dead dogs.


            :           :           :


But when I was little I

used to walk around a lot

and make up stories! Maybe

I’ve internalized the answering

side. I used to imagine the half-

human bloody crawling

man from Hellraiser

mounting the stairs to my bedroom

and splooging bloody pus

on the eggshell carpet.

I used to think offering

my body to be pinched,

burnt, and bobbled was

a key

to the glorious land of love

beyond the doorway.




My parents showed up in the ER room

and I was a weird broken bird mammal.


almost almost almost almost


            :           :           :


Panic trigger:

elevators, men,


riding in a car.

I could only sleep

if my mouth was


my girlfriend’s skin.


            :           :           :


Three crows flew

over me in a triangle today,

carrying an invisible flag

between them, floated,

then expanded. I

had to follow them

one at a time. Like an owl.


Crows can see the past, present,

and future. Well, I can’t

see my fucking past,

present, and future

at the same time, Ghosty

Boo, girly boo, and I am

sick because you grew up and

in like a hangnail stem

off a plant curled up

in her swollen survival sac.

Invented your own placenta

like a pumpkin, to nourish

you need inside and

nibble. Ghosty beats against my

body like I am her trap.

She stands across the room and howls

and foams electrically.


            :           :           :


I saw my nerves spark

& descend. She awoke from

her paralysis

& I continue to learn

how to have her here.

Ghosty wants to talk talk

talk & play & laugh. She brushes

off sexual attention

or physical touch & keeps giggling.

She evades judgment

& expectations, loves praise

& attention


like a dog.


            :           :           :


I am a machine of practical

work, I bow to the temple

of patterns. I keep

my emotions simmering in a shed,

latched. I do not touch

and cannot be touched. Am level.

I am inherently good,

Ghosty Boo is innocent.


If you touch us, we will simmer

and roll and twitch your

fingers from our skin. We evade like

a karate snake with eyes

bigger than a wolf owl. We teeter

between retrograde and

progression. Ghosty Boo knows

the shame of survival

the way that I know

a balanced food pyramid, not

to touch a stranger’s dog

without asking, the smell

of rotting dairy.


            :           :           :


Who rules? Whose rules?

There are no rules, only guidelines

you say out loud to pretense

order. Bedtime is nine. The bus

comes at seven. Once, I found

a tick in the crevice

of my ear while waiting

for the school bus, was

running my little fingers in

my earlobe and I hit

a bump and ripped it and it

flew. I still carry that disgust.

Escape home to go to school and

there are ticks hiding in you.


            :           :           :


Doors are wicked animals,

privacy from bodies, but

how does a lock stand

up to beating and banging?

I was afraid

of everything:

curtains were witches,

stuffed animals

had teeth. I projected fear

onto inanimate objects,

even then I cultivated

chatter. I heard a man

slow talk over

the grandfather clock.

Manifest. Infestation

man. Did I learn to

evade touch by evading it

as a child or by surviving?


            :           :           :


I crawled and hid.


Kids don’t understand drunk,

so parents can do it

all they want. Drunken

responders to my little

pipes. I thought it was normal

to toddle around keg parties.


Who touched me, bumped me, rubbed me, fell on me there?


I remember the food:

pancakes, salsa, meat

and potatoes. I fed myself

Doritos, ham and potato chip

sandwiches, melted chocolate

in the microwave.

Latchkey kid.

One time, my family came

home from a fucked

up vacation and I drank

two-week overdue milk.

Puking and reeling and they fed

me licorice to ease the pain.


            :           :           :


Swimming in our creek,

I sat on a broken glass jar

and sliced my asscheek.

I tried to fix it alone,

but when I couldn’t stop

bleeding, I asked.

My mom and the neighbor

closed my slice

with a butterfly bandage.

When the bandage was

removed later (how much

later?), it took my skin with it

and since then I’ve had a

wormy division sign

scar on my ass.

I’ve laughed about it. Haha.

My sister laughed about it. She

had a divot above her ass and I said

she had two assholes. Haha.

Why did we know each other’s

nudity so well? I grew up

with enough knowledge and

shame not to siren, so the voices

wanting to wail pressurized

my head and my eyes glowed

and I solidified.


            :           :           :


Ghosty Boo ruminates.


No one knowns me. I cannot

speak. I cannot push

words from my head with my tongue

because my eyes are too wide and my

sockets push my teeth down. I am

afraid of tornadoes inside of the house.

I go outside to play in the mud with my sister.


I keep recreating my relationship

with my sister—caring,

defensive, twinlike, naive,

forgiving--with my adult partners

and it ruins everything.


Gemini weighted Libra.


            :           :           :


Once, we posed our Barbie dolls like a Playboy shoot.


We stole eggs from the refrigerator

instead of the chicken coop—maybe

we wanted to test if our parents will

notice. They don’t.


Once, my sister threw

my cat into the creek. Once, I threw

a rock in the air knowing it might

fall on her and it did, but I didn’t mean it,

I was just curious. The only time

my father spanked me was when I

raced my sister to the front seat of the car,

slammed the door on her fingers, and kept

pulling while she screamed.

I wasn’t aware that she was hurting,

was I?


             But isn’t pain regular

and to be expected? Shouldn’t my

apology be implied and accepted

without me having to ask for it?


When you’re young and neglected, grotesque

is normal. The floor is lava, you have

a Nintendo, you eat mashed

potatoes, so everything is normal.


Kate Litterer is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts MFA Program for Poets and Writers (2013) and is currently pursuing an PhD in Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Massachusetts, where she focuses on feminist research methods, butch-femme history, and queering the archive. Her first book of poetry, Ghosty Boo, is forthcoming very soon from A-Minor Press. Kate's website is