Hayley Mitchell Haugen

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Before the Trip

The mechanic is tall
and lean and solid
and I wonder how
old I will be when I stop
noticing such things.
I wonder how long
it takes him each night
to get all that grease
out from between
his fingers, from beneath
his trimmed nails. I wonder
if his girl waits patiently
for all of that, and if some nights –
if their love is young enough – 
she just thinks, hell,
forget it, a little dirt
doesn’t matter.


(for Kari Gunter-Seymour)

In front of me, a gift I’ve been told not to touch –
a wax-paper wonton wrapped round a brown surprise –

it wrinkles and puckers and wants to open at its edges,
shines slick with its promise of goodness, reminding me

somehow, of my mother-in-law’s baking sheets.
She’d had them for 20 pristine years when I took them,

knowing full well they would be ruined. Alas, I touch it,
smooth as glass with a lump in its throat, its voice a crinkling

wish, a crackling cellophane, like trying to open a cough drop
in jury duty, the opera, a funeral parlor, its edges sharp,

like a gum wrapper, like the phone bill, like good news.
It fits in the palm of my hand, could get lost in the bottom

of a purse – crushed. Once, we made chocolates
for Christmas presents, the tiniest muffin cups unfolding

each from each, vessels for so many candies strewn across
the mahogany table-top, their various oozings cascading

onto wax paper, their cherry, orange, butter cream fillings
escaping. Finally, the smelling, the tasting, an aroma so richly,

so darkly, sinfully chocolate, the soft, raspberry marshmallow
wonder melting on my tongue, the little fruit pits lingering,

and at once I know my shame, that if I had a whole box
I would not share them, but eat them in bed on rainy days,

under covers,
in secret.

 Artwork by Gene McCormick

Get the Bitch a Lobotomy
(for Alice Hood Hammatt, the first US pre-frontal lobotomy patient)

She was a master at bitching and really led her husband a dog’s life. – Walter Freeman

Freeman took Alice from Alice
in 1936, severing her neural connections
to relieve her from depression, her restlessness,
to relieve her husband from her bitching,
her anxious garrulousness. After,
she was calm, in that wax dummy kind of way
the history books would chronicle,
the activists would question.
Perhaps she felt some loss of dignity,
fell into a childlike stubbornness and sloppy eating,
or maybe, like a thousand others to come,
she sat inert, disoriented to time, to place, to self,
as she tried to recall some feeling she once had,
some talent, but why worry about what is normal:
Every patient probably loses something
by the operation, some spontaneity, some sparkle,
some flavor of the personality.


Hayley Mitchell Haugen holds a Ph.D. in English and an MFA in poetry; she is Associate Professor of English at Ohio University Southern. Light & Shadow, Shadow & Light from Main Street Rag Publishing Company (2018) is her first full-length poetry collection. She edits Sheila-Na-Gig online (https://sheilanagigblog.com/) and Sheila-Na-Gig Editions.