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from The Lisa Sequence

Lisa Montgomery was born with permanent brain damage from her mother’s alcoholism while pregnant, was repeatedly raped and beaten by her stepfather and his friends, tortured and trafficked by her mother, and entered into a violent and sexually abusive marriage with her stepbrother (at the encouragement of her mother) at age 18. She suffered from Complex PTSD as a result of these repeated traumas. Prior to her death, Lisa was held in solitary confinement and severely dissociated at the time of her execution, which was one week before Trump left office. 




Who is she but a Heaven-sent companion? 

What but a little mother or little daughter, one or the other?

What is this creature but loose gloss on water or ice-etched burden? What is

glistening breath of bedtime confessions? What are hand-

prints on Plexiglas partitions? What is cry and listen and guilt

and powerlessness facing powerlessness, two dainty halves of a locket,

deranged mirror or partial litter cantering down the same

horrible corridor? Who cuts down brush for the play-pretend house?

Who is the mother or daughter this round?





So much like a poem, isn’t it? From the poorest materials

and time and impulse begets the knit walls, the three stories,

the figure at the center, sitting on a bed. This is one

version of what could have been. This is revision, a gift to the left-

behind children, soon motherless, saying I labored,

I pleasured, I learned within this structure and found a peace

not known outside the pearl and stitch, this concentration, every

technique in service of the whole. Let the little home she made before

she went endure, as her final rest, a monument.  The looming

end is not in it. Nor fear’s wick, nor its extinguishment.




When the curtains swung, when she found herself

lain back again, pinned, with strangers taking her in, there was

a pause between the asking and the answer akin to the air

between the hammer and the nail. That steely

word outlawed at home, what sentence could have held her

better? What poem could have illumed the soul? 

The mouth finds its first suckling shape as she gazes up

at a speck in the fluorescents, a buzz, some feminine voice

at her shoulder asking the question gently before she gives her

No, the nothing after flickering in the echo.


Paula Bohince is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Swallows and Waves.


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