Two Poems

Nicole Byrne

For My First Boyfriend, Who Wanted Me to Write Him a Love Poem


At fifteen, my first boyfriend
forced an earthquake 
into my foundation. Entertained 
by the idea of manipulating the body 
of another for his own amusement, 
he scooped me up in his arms, 
ignored my kicks 
and protests, and discarded
me in a blue trash bin. 


I folded like a heavy book, an empty 
beer can, a pocket knife.
He stood over me with his phone,
photographing despite my pleas
to get me out.


    My spine 
a bone serpent—
            hydra of vertebrae. 


For each pain I suppressed 
              to sleep, 
I woke with two more.


He never hit me but he wanted to. 
His fists twitched 
            with the thought 
that he could possibly 
            beat sex from me 
since I wouldn't let him buy it 
with expensive gifts. The same hands 
that bent my spine into a reptilian 
column struck 
             out at air like rattlesnakes, 
excited by the thought 
                            of prey 
so close, yet he did 
            not aim for a 

For Valentine's Day, he asked me
to write him a love poem. 
I was too scared
to say no. 
When I sat at my desk,
                          a snake came.
It punctured my lumbar
                         with its egg tooth
            and nested,
                         in my coccyx,
birthed a false
                and fractured lyric.


He knew the poem I gave him
was without heart.


We lay
on his bed and watched a Chris Rock
movie. This time, 
                            he did not 
                try to fuck me.

I am trying to consume my vestigial
tail. Six years have only made the pain
                a crumbling temple 
of the sacral fulcrum
               where I find minor relief
in half-folding,
 My curling
                            is not fetal, 
but a full-body fist.




Instructions for the Girl Who Dares to Go Out Drinking Alone


Note: italicized text is from the article “Setting the Bar: How to Stay Safe on a Night Out” by Jenna Bodnar,

published on March 30, 2015 on




If you wear anything at all that even hints at the shape of your body underneath it, you will get hit on


When he whispers in your ear,
tells you you’re the best dressed
at the bar, and that he’d love
to see the full view,
say “no, but thank you.”


When he sits down next to you,
tells you your drink choice is great,
that girls taste better with tequila 
in their breath, asks if you want
to find out what he’s been drinking,
say “no, I’m not interested.”


When he puts his arm around your waist, 
tells you you’re the best dancer,
and that you really know how 
to shake your ass, then slides 
his hand into the back 
pocket of your jeans,
say “no.”


What you don’t want to do is offend him.


When pushes you into a wall 
grabs your breasts, presses
his hot groin against you,
tells you he can’t help himself,
tells you he wants you,
tells you, he is going to have you,
say nothing.


Become needle nose pliers.


Extract his rotting pink leech
of a tongue, wave it in his face, 
throw it on the concrete.
Flatten it beneath your boot.


Become a claw hammer.


Splay his fingers on the table.
Bust his nails, break his joints,
drag the skin and muscle 
out of his palm.


Become a buck knife.


Castrate him like a goat.
Peel away his scrotum
like a soft-boiled egg,
and crush his never-to-be-born
half-children in your fist,
his sick seed oozing
out onto your knuckles.


 About the Writer
Split Lip Magazine

Nicole Byrne suffers from a crippling addiction to poetry. She self-medicates with copious amounts of black coffee, avocados, hot sauce, and rock ‘n’ roll. The treatment does not appear to be working and she hopes it never does. She is currently based in Kansas where she is an MFA candidate at Wichita State University, but her heart remains in Maine. Her work has previously been published in Words Dance, Emrys Journal, and Sunset Liminal. Find her online at and on Twitter @nicolebyrnepoet.