I remember drifting off to the sound
of their small claws pawing persistently
against the pine ceiling beams—careful claws,
curling soft wood like ribbon on a scissor’s
edge, piling scraps in nests above the bed
where I slept in that hundred-year-old house
and dreamt the past scratched at my door, a pest
I could not exterminate. How was I
to know they’d chew through the electrical
wires? That that winter, the kitchen would burn?
I’d not yet woken from the nights spent in
upstairs closets, where my sister would hide
me when things got bad. And even though
the house still stands, the old rooms smell of smoke.
Raised in a renovated slaughterhouse on the outskirts of Wilmington, Ohio, Shannon Ward is currently working on her first collection, Blood Creek. She received an MFA in Poetry from North Carolina State University in 2009 and currently teaches composition at her undergraduate alma mater, Methodist University. She is the recipient of a 2011 Vermont Studio Center Artist’s Grant, the 2009 Bruce and Marge Petesch Fellowship, and the 2007 Longleaf Press Writing Award. Her work has appeared in The Superstition Review, Tar River Poetry, Burdock, and Marginalia. She lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina with her husband and two cats.