from the editors

current issue

past issues



Follow UCityReview on Twitter



Cathryn Shea

Dorothea Lynde Dix Has a Nightmare About Greenhouse Gases

Marie Catherine Laveau Buys a Used Ouija Board

Dorothea Lynde Dix* Has a Nightmare About Greenhouse Gases

Upset hearing the news about earth’s climate,
a homeless man smashes the windows
of the Victorian hothouse at Falkirk mansion,
the town’s historical landmark.

Only his public defender knows his true name.
When asked why he broke all the windows,
the man yells, “The greenhouse effect!”

Benign, the sun’s light interacts with molecules
and gases trap heat so we can enjoy
our snug warmth.

The disturbed man is finally hauled away
to the underground jail
where he will tremble under a threadbare blanket,
where no sunlight will reach him.

“He’s mentally ill,” alleged the warden.
“Schizoid,” supposed a clerk.

Benevolent are solar rays
uncaged, without human meddling,
allowed to pass for eons
through our planet’s tragic air.

*Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802 – 1887) was an advocate on behalf of the indigent mentally ill who, through a vigorous and sustained program of lobbying state legislatures and the United States Congress, created the first generation of American mental asylums. During the Civil War, she served as a Superintendent of Army Nurses.

Return to list of poems

Marie Catherine Laveau* Buys a Used Ouija Board

Perhaps I was a bad mother
to let my infant son play
with the so-called game
found at the church thrift shop
in its musty original box.

A spirit board, Ouija,
rhymes with squeegee,
which I thought would be fun
to learn the alphabet, numbers,
and rhyme.

We asked simple questions:
“Can kitty fly?”
“Is it going to rain?”
“Is Mommy’s hair black?”
Good Bye.

We counted one to zero
and went from A to Z,
the planchette wiping the board
like a window
in circles and figure eights,
not bothering a soul.
Good Bye.

Never use with your kid,
I had heard.
Never ask about God.
Why not? “Is anyone there?”
I thought I would just check.
Good Bye?

Not so easy.
“Peachy,” came the reply.
“Give us a signal
if you are for real.”

Our hands sped
around the board.
I tried not to yell.
What made the plastic pointer move?
Good Bye …

We came back for more.
“Peachy? Are you there?”
“Give us a sign.”
Tap, tap at the window.
A sparrow? A man?
“Don’t scare my son.”

I told my friend and she said:
Girl, it’s dangerous to play
around with Ouija. 
Never ask for signs.
Never forget to say “Good Bye”
or the spirit will haunt all
who’ve touched the board.
Forever. I mean it, always
say “Good Bye.”

I made my son try again with me.
The lights flickered
off and on. Off and on.
Whatever, whoever, wherever.
We threw the board into the bin.
It’s unknown history, gone.

We forgot to say
“Good Bye.”

*Marie Catherine Laveau (1801 – 1881) was a Louisiana Creole descended from the colonial white settlers, Black slaves, and free people of color of southern Louisiana. In New Orleans, she was a renowned priestess of Voodoo, an herbalist, and midwife.

Return to list of poems

Cathryn Shea is the author of Genealogy Lesson for the Laity (available from Unsolicited Press, September 2020) and the chapbooks Backpack Full of Leaves (Cyberwit, 2019), Secrets Hidden in a Pear Tree (dancing girl press, 2019), and It’s Raining Lullabies (dancing girl press, 2017). Cathryn’s poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net and appears in New Orleans Review, Tar River Poetry, Gargoyle, and elsewhere. Cathryn served as editor for Marin Poetry Center Anthology and she lives with her husband in Fairfax, CA. See and @cathy_shea on Twitter.

Return to list of poems

copyright 2010-2021 ucity review