Tender Usurper

by | Jan 13, 2023

After the invasion the garden was busted watches, dolls’ heads, letters penned in bile. Flowers bloomed with babies’ teeth. The body is a book of wounds, said my wife. All the alegebras of the city unsolvable, nothing but subtraction. We harvested strange species of sleep named after tired kings, gypsies, cadences of blood. With fingertips we read the stories of our scars.


  1. Meg Tuite

    Ryan! This is absolutely entrancing and gorgeous and everyone needs to read aloud! LOVE LOVE the ‘babies’ teeth’ ‘The body is a book of wounds” ALL OF IT! Send this beauty out! Exquisite and fierce! LOVE!

    • Koss (No Last Name)

      Such a strange and wonderful medley of images. Harvested species of sleep . . . blooming with babie’s teeth, so great–all of it.

  2. Robyn Schelenz

    so vivid on a gutsy subject. you can feel the despair within the beauty. powerful. i’m finding it hard to leave the page.

  3. Jonathan Cardew


    This is outstanding! I love the “babies teeth” and the “species of sleep”–such vivid, surprising imagery and turn of phrase.

    This is airtight, though the only word I might revisit is “subtraction.” I felt like that took me out of the story for some reason. Then again, it works well with the mathematical element of that sentence.

    Great stuff!


  4. Benjamin Niespodziany

    Great title to begin with! This one is vacuum sealed and sharp around the corners. From the start, I’m hooked. For that first sentence, it might be nice to chop it up and introduce that I/we perspective with an “our”. Something like — “After the invasion, our garden was busted watches and dolls’ heads. Letters penned in bile.”

    The wife quote is wondrous. I think since this entire piece is strange, there’s no need to use “strange” in your second to last sentence. “We harvested species of sleep” is more exciting to me, and still super strange/unique. That final line really packs a punch and lands nicely, especially with “read” being applicable to the past tense to go along with the entire prose poem, but also a possible present tense flip to hint that this post-invasion madness is still happening, and the scars still exist. Nice!

    For further reading in this realm of language, I highly recommend the poet Eric Baus. He has five or six books of really line-driven prose poems. Rhythmic and vivid. Worth your while! 

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