An Actual Family

By Ish Klein


An Actual Family



Who left these yowling things here?

Dammit. Someone should have drown them.
How to manage this? Nothing is right.
There’s nothing any good to eat here.
The kitchen is closed.

And they just won’t shut-up,
foul smelling and actually useless.”

“the wolves- they’d make a mess.

Get near my place too close you blasted wolves
that will be a bother

The wolves- my, my
and me a wolf when they get near.

No, no
bring that racket in.

Oh all right.
I am. It’s cold- don’t you feel

yes I know, oh, you, getting old.
Oh I know”


Hag, witch, sensitive, one-time Ms. New Jersey,
experiment-survivor, flame thrower when free

there is furthermore. Well? Oh alright.

She put her hands on their basket
“They’ll have each other at least.”
Stooping in the snow, she hefts and hauls them.

“Don’t use up all my fire
you useless”

She sees them as seething blobs
she thinks the cage is a great idea:

‘teach the boy the limits of being in.
He’ll figure it out when he gets big.’

These are my parents: My dad in the cage.
My mother made a slave.

The witch’s hands passed over them stealing warmth.

She told the reporters at court later, though she was told to not say anything,
out of control spitting:

“I wasn’t going to eat that thing! It was to teach him!
He needed to know how to get out of the cage on his own!”

There was a metal cuff around her neck; attached to that a pole.
The kids were taken in by social services.

Dad atrophied, being out of it.
He would eat a great deal then panic.

If the cage came back he’d be in for it:
squished like a quilt in a little drawer.

The disorder, his neck forced up against his knees, choking-
He could not hold the food down

he was a sort of sieve, his throat a blistered road.

The people who rescued them never liked them- the vomiting,
the violations. The fact that they loved one another

My mother, the girl who learned how to clean in the shadowed zone.
She, a light from the bottom of the sea, was given a small table to sleep on.

When they got sprung, they met again
to put their hearts up to each other. To test the rent

or rip in the world that would have them dangled over the mortal forest.
And then the hand out of nowhere which was more against witches then for them.

My mom and dad had had enough of her too.
They were getting the nerve up to usurp her. Mercy for wolves too.

They saw the scenery and the zone behind it.
They saw the Saw, the skin, the suit and the sensors.

They needed to find their age, straighten numbers, recalibrate at the intersection of spirits
in mammals moving. Then the mud which has one tone; they should know that.

This was underway when the authorities moved in.
And yes their heads were emptied of the majority.

What kind of honor is that horror?
It isn’t; it’s embarrassing, and a little embittering: the little they remember.

They do think that the one’s who want to own without knowing,
without having lived in the heat at the heart of the world

they think they are dead already and never should be born.

Meanwhile they manage.
And my grandma who knows about me, for now she’s with the robots.

A world which gets smaller every single second.
Soon it will be her alone

in the zone of dismantled ones.

Grandma, a sort of son
but I am no longer bothering.

It’s a trust issue.
The line ends.

Even if you willed me, I am not you
and when I’m wild– again not you.

There are better rabbits, better birds to be.
Wolves, real ones.

There are other outrageous strains
and stiff new beings.

Clattering around, peripherally sparkling;
guiding us off the battlefield

through the lights
and into the unmeasured universe.


This poem originally appeared in MAKE #8, “This Everyday.”

Ish Klien is the author of the poetry books Moving Day and Union! published by Canarium Press. A disc of her videos, Success Window, is available thanks to Poor Claudia of Portland, Oregon. Her work has screened at festivals and museums around the world. See some videos here. She and Greg Purcell produce the poetry podcast called Noslander.

People MAKE this happen

click to see who

MAKE Magazine Publisher MAKE Literary Productions   Managing Editor Chamandeep Bains   Fiction Editor Kamilah Foreman   Nonfiction Editor Jessica Anne   Poetry Editor Joel Craig   Intercambio Poetry Editor Daniel Borzutzky   Intercambio Prose Editor Brenda Lozano   Latin American Art Portfolio Editor Alejandro Almanza Pereda   Reviews Editor Mark Molloy   Art Portfolio Editor Sarah Kramer   Creative Director Joshua Hauth, Hauthwares   Web Design Johnathan Crawford   Proofreader/Copy Editor Sarah Kramer   Associate Fiction Editors LC Fiore Kerstin Schaars   Contributing Editors Kyle Beachy Steffi Drewes Kathleen Rooney   LIT & LUZ FESTIVAL, 2016-17   Managing Director: Nuria Sheehan Co-directors: Sarah Dodson and Brenda Lozano Associate Artistic Directors: Daniel Borzutzky, Joel Craig, and Ireri Rivas Media Director: Jennifer Patiño Cervantes Production and Logistics: Stephanie Manriquez   Sound and Vision: Charly Garcia _________________________ MAKE Literary Productions, NFP Co-directors, Sarah Dodson and Joel Craig