JCM Eldred

Living in Heat


We kept rabbits as pets.  From them I learned

how to live in our flat inland stretch

skirted by those rushing somewhere past burned

skin, past the heat so hell hot it can catch

and distill memories, those confessions framed

in shame for burning acts we failed to do.

Yes, rabbits housed in hutches.  We named

them something adorable.  As I grew,

they and their names have been forgotten,

which is unfair—because rabbits can recall

in their rapid breath and bedtime cotton

human routines and rituals and all

the indignities of creatures who fall

asleep confined, who wake to creep and crawl.


Holding the Quick Shiver


I cupped the rabbit’s head and cradled its tail

as always.  That day, an Edenic snake—

just a quick shiver really—crossed our trail.

Poisonous? My father grabbed a metal stake

or perhaps a shovel. He brought it down fast,

decapitating the snake with one hit.

The rabbit scratched, drew blood until at last

my father gripped it by the scruff, raised it

by that fur on its neck until it stilled.

Then he rocked and stroked it with husbandry touch.

After that day when the snake was killed,

I walked gingerly between house and hutch,

pushing past the panic at that spot of dirt,

holding so tight that nothing could hurt.


Vigilance and Vigils



His porcelain angel, His china doll.  He didn’t need a papal council to vote

his daughter into sainthood, to mark a feast day on which he could pray to heal all

bruised by his iniquities.  He understood retribution.  Because of his sowed wild oats,

his porcelain angel, his china doll


fell to earth, lived a scant two years with the stench of milking cows and goats,

with tractors that tip, rattlers that strike, coyotes that call, with lethal

chemicals that bleach and bleed, frayed electric that smokes into throats—


Appalling, all on the farm that stomps, mauls or kills. How could he foresee the most

deadly was that small pet door through which she could wriggle, crawl,

waddle to pool deck? He found her adrift on reflected sunlight, her spirit afloat.

His porcelain angel, His china doll.


A California native, JCM Eldred received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and now teaches in the MFA program at the University of Kentucky. She is the author of two nonfiction books: Sentimental Attachments and Literate Zeal. Her latest book, of collection of poems entitled More Sonnets from the Portuguese, is forthcoming in Fall 2016.

Note: The poems “Living in Heat” and “Holding the Quick Shiver” are used by permission of Whitepoint Press LLC. They will be appearing in More Sonnets from the Portuguese this fall.