SPOTLIGHT: Fringewood by Madison McSweeney


Patron Saint of people pleasers
Sister of instability
she walks across eggshells like hot coals
does as she’s told
by the voice engrained
in her, which paces her brain
tells her that she
is the calm in the storm
tells her to keep calm,
carry on,
to keep a smile on her face,
after all,
there’s no need
for the neighbours to know
no need
to bring everybody else
with you.

You’re the life of the party, girl:
if you fold, we all die.

Fake ‘it til you make it and if you can’t fake it —
fight it — if you can’t fight it
to a washroom
(to the woods)
to an idyllic
where you can put flowers
in your hair and dance
like everyone’s watching.

You’re the life of the party,
you’re the dancing queen;
You’re the life of the party,
girl — if you fall,
so do we all.

Cemetery Way

Walk with me along cemetery way
where one day we may rest
securely locked away and topped
with white marble
(white like orchids, white like bone) lest
we stir in our sleep and seek
to claw our way towards the
sun is so lovely today
as we walk along cemetery way
where we may rest
for a moment, on the wrought-iron
bench erected in honour
of a fine local citizen
long lost
what bliss is this
your hand
so warm in mine
your eyes shine
like marble
(like funeral orchids, like bone)
“darling,” you say
“your hand”
(in yours)
“it’s so cold”
(like marble)
like bone

Wolf Grove Road

They say the girl loved the wolf;
She wouldn’t be the first.

They say it was she
who made him turn from man to beast,
but that’s just high school gossip;
he was a monster when they met.

They say all teen romances are mad
but few end so badly
and with such bloodshed.

Some say she had a death wish
But they don’t know what the wolf was like
under a waning crescent, waxing empathetic
at the edge of the black lake, beneath the silver light of the stars,

And she was smart
she never crept into his mobile home when the moon was out, and his temper flared;
Until the night in question.
She didn’t know it was a full moon – a harvest moon
madness, madness,
summer madness;
snarling, shoves her back, rattling
the aluminum wall of the trailer
a photo of his father
(who was mauled)
falls, cracks; “You like me mad?
Am I not dangerous enough for you, bitch?”
Teeth; a whimper; “Get out of here before something bad happens.”

And she did
but she doubled back
when she heard the hunting party was out.

What the gossips won’t discuss is what happened in the woods that night
and the silver pelt that used to sit
on old One-Eye Ed’s bench;
the young man who went missing;
or the hunter, found dead, a month later;
And they certainly won’t talk about
the girl with the wolfskin rug

The Cave in the Sky

A window opens in the night sky
lighthouse eye

I am looking out your window
at the base of a black
-stone mountain that begins
in black air.

I dream you as a guard tower
your bulb revolves as the earth on its axis
and entraps

I awake to dew
and void.

You are not a lookout spot
your searchlight is your own
A hermit lives
within you
and flicks the light off when the sun
comes up.


Sipped my hangover in the blue-grey fog
(that was a lie – it was grey
a beautiful pure grey, horror movie October grey, cemetery grey,
a good old fashioned
skulking through the moors fog –
and in summer at that, late summer,
although the leaves have already started to turn – to die

my dearly beloved
late summer) on the front porch,
the trees wax paper outlines
to trace, my cat’s fur dampening
from exposure to the air; tea
chilled in the mug, cream congealed
into white swamp gunk on top –
algae; my skin breaks
out in a cold sweat
no red-orange silver lining in the sky;
no sunrise today.

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