Carrie Magness Radna

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Artwork by Gene McCormick

Elsa (no. 144 of Women’s names sensual series)

My mother 
was a true disciple 
to a genius, a whorish charlatan
who could walk on tightropes
& hold a glowing golden coal
in his bare hands,
a learned monster.

She would sacrifice everything:
her name, her soul, her body, her sanity, her security, her identity,
her original reasons for being.

She gave her Master everything.
She gave her life;
she gladly walked towards Death,
waving her arms like Angel wings.

Like the others,
easily programmed,
running up that mighty hill
like a little lamb—

She washed the soiled linens,
fresh with blood, 
piss, puke,
shit & semen,
before slamming her body 
down in the ocean,
the knife glistening,
cutting the left side of the torso,
sacrificing herself
so she wouldn’t be left behind
& replaced by a newer model.

I am not my mother.
I am disillusioned,
a fighter,
a hidden she-wolf.

I will wait until the sun sets
& I will send my food back.
I will escape this tiny town 
with one streetlight
on Main Street,
I will leave the cramped house
I grew up in,
the crosses and deer heads
on the walls,
the quilts gathering lint and moth-holes,
the cat hair everywhere.

I can’t kneel down & pray
for good things to happen.
I can’t keep sitting on my ass
waiting for the One
to come & save me—

I need to run fearless
into the night,
as if my whole life
depended on it.

Artwork by Gene McCormick

When I find the mess that wasn’t mine

Every time your lover
does a thing one shouldn’t,
the toxic words bubble through;
the id head-butts the ego.

Did my grandmother,
the one who had insisted
on being called “Mama,”
the one who had to be right, every time,
the one who grew up bitter & cruel,
did she have these same complaints 
& fears often plaguing her, fueling her mind,
erupting & clouding any source
of decency & kindness?

Sometimes I hear her voice
nitpicking, demanding,
play-acting & shouting
(clean that damn table!)
(stop that!)
(do damn better than this)
(just be perfect)
(shut up, stupid)

When there are dirty dishes
in the sink, fresh stains found
on the countertop
(why don’t they fucking
clean up after themselves;
they did the mess),

these harpy words
erupt my brain,
stop me in my tracks—

but unlike Grandma (or “Mama”)
I pause—breathe deeply 3 times,
freezing the fears.

Pausing again, I wait until I stop shaking,
I wipe the angry tears away,
then I tell my love GENTLY
to clean his damn mess up.


Born in Norman, OK, Carrie Magness Radna (she/her) is an audiovisual cataloger (New York Public Library), a singer, a poet and a traveler (when it’s safe). Her latest poetry collection, Shooting Myself in the Dark (Cajun Mutt Press), was published in January 2023. She lives in Manhattan, New York with her husband Rudolf.