Two Poems by Olivia Olson

"The Only Non-Catholics on St Mary’s in Detroit" and "The Sleeping Violence"

The Only Non-Catholics on St Mary’s in Detroit

When we found the snake coiled
around the hot water pipe,
my sister’s nightmares grew
cyclical—worms wound among
the mossy cochlea; the whorls
in her fingers spun, wrenching her nerve
endings like the ridges of a screw;
then, she was a record laid flat,
a needle scratching all her secrets out.
On St. Mary’s, we were the only
non-Catholics—your sister is a
witch, my best friend’s mother said,
drunk on the plum-colored Bourbon
we’d long ago learned to bloat
with water and pair with leaves
of Bologna from the fridge. She scared me
with gory tales of the saints, how their
sweet ivory faces were smeared with blood,
lungs mottled with ash and hearts
punctured. Do not pity them—
they are the angels now, she told me.
Knowing not to ask, again, Why
can’t I become an angel? I dreamt
instead I was wrapped blindly, belly
against some dark source of warmth.

A Sleeping Violence

That’s when it became
about the pit bulls,

right when they devoured
the mother—The Mother,

the papers splashed, a suicide,
and I wondered, mother, why

pick that way out—hop
the fringe of razor

teeth and down a slick
esophagus? So it is a well

worn path the rest of us,
nowadays, safe, have

forgotten: the warm
throb and tear of death

by beast. That’s the sleeping
violence, awake

and swinging
like my grandfather’s

arms, still slicing a scythe
through shoulder

high crops, mundane
dreams displacing

shocks of dream

all night, every
night and into the tough

skin of his sleeping wife,
yanked like a weed

from her own
dream—what the hell

is going on—muscles
remember even in sleep

what they repeat
in daylight, over and over

and over. So, sometimes,
it’s more like the pit bulls,

the relief of knowing
it’s always been

like this—the last thing
we’ve waited to see

is a hunger
and a victory

in something
else’s eyes.

Notes on Staying

& since there was no key, I guess I’ll swallow the door.

A Few Discomforts

The number of months you can pretend to smoke a cigarette with somebody that doesn’t love you.