Once They Killed a Tiger on a Sippy Cup

The source code is

unimpeded by taboos
like “use a fork, a spoon.”

They chew on oozing
pop-tarts, watch cartoons.

The screen
a serengeti, where a zebra

ties on shoes, an elephant
in tutu

performs attitudes.
A giraffe

in big, thick glasses

the masters.
The toddlers

drool, advancing
toward the plasma,

their cuspids
and incisors erupting.


Each leg of them
was frayed

at bottom
a denim column

she had patched
with eighteen hearts—

the places at the knees
where cigarettes

had shamed them
where sidewalks gnawed

at seat-of-pants
my own threadbare

eighteen hearts—

presented on denim
for my birthday

when we fought
about some boy

(if I remember)
she disapproved of

cut from rags

stitched into a mantle
to protect me

til goodness spooled
until I mended

KATHLEEN HELLEN is the author of the award-winning collection Umberto’s Night and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Loved Mothra and Pentimento. Her collection The Only Country was the Color of my Skin is forthcoming in 2018. Nominated for the Pushcart and Best of the Net, and featured on Poetry Daily, her poems have won the Thomas Merton poetry prize and prizes from the H.O.W. Journal and Washington Square Review. Visit her online at kathleenhellen.com