Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Novelist Benjamin Percy Writes us a Poem

Benjamin Percy (http://www.benjaminpercy.com) is feeling daring—he wrote us an original poem to help us sell subscriptions for our “Take a Chance: Subscribe!” campaign throughout the month of June. Subscribe here. Read—and hear!—Percy’s poem below.


The Black Draught

The pale face smearing the midnight window.

The staticy voices hissing and popping over the baby monitor.

The semi-driver wearing a clown mask in the rearview mirror.

The doll opening its marble eyes and hollow mouth and rasping out a name, yours.


The wasp in your soda,

the spider in your ear,

the teeth in your stool.


Knives shriek against knives.

Claws tick-tick-tick across hardwood floors.

A stick snaps in the forest.

Bats whir their wings.


Your baby is born

without eyes, ears, nose, mouth

its head a pink veined stone.


A long-fingered hand

reaches from beneath your bed,

coldly manacles your ankle.


The pallbearers trip,

the coffin spills a body

that splits open to reveal the

worms and beetles nesting inside, squirming, scurrying.  


A child crawls into the hollow of a tree

that closes, and days later

a face emerges as knuckly whorls in the bark.


Gulp these words like a black draught

so that when you wake in the night,

wondering if you hear footsteps downstairs,

you will know that the poem has done its work:

the worst has come true.


Benjamin Percy is the author of two novels, Red Moon and The Wilding, as well as two books of short fiction, Refresh, Refresh, and The Language of Elk. His honors include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Whiting Writers' Award, two Pushcart Prizes, the Plimpton Prize, and inclusion in Best American Short Stories and Best American Comics. He is the writer-in-residence at St. Olaf College and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Pacific University.