Skull, Rat, Chrysanthemum by Jackie Hahn; for more information, visit

Twenty-Seven Gerbils

by Roxanne Cardona

He left me his gerbils.  Two gerbils.
Gerbils begat gerbils beget gerbils begetting gerbils.
Gerbils fuck their brothers, fuck their mothers, eat their sisters.

In the night long, the gerbils shat and fornicated.
Twenty-seven gerbils,
named and fed, in a tall cage

on the wooden floor next to my bed.
Somewhere in the Bronx.
My brother sleeps beside

his new wife, inside their new bed.
Forget your gerbils. Forget your sister.
There are gray shapes climbing the wire bars

with teeth and tongues. In the tall cage
in the middle of the night. They kill.
They do it quietly. Kill, their mother, their brother…

Twenty-five, nineteen, seventeen left.
They devour themselves stealthily.  Eleven.
They chew through my dreams. Ten.

They prefer fresh water and sunflower seeds.
I give them these things, fresh, daily. I do.
I dream razors. Nine feeding.

I tuck myself in with their dark claws.
I don’t want to go to sleep. I hear things.
(Eight teething.)

I can’t reach my brother, (six) I call and call.
Please answer.  Three only.
I can only hear the scratching (one).

About Roxanne Cardona

Roxanne Cardona was born in New York City and has had poems published in the West View. She studied with Philip Schultz, Writers Studio, NYC for more than a decade and Jennifer Franklin, HVWC, NY. She has a BA and MS from Hunter College, MS from the College of New Rochelle. She was an elementary school principal in the South Bronx. Roxanne resides in Teaneck, NJ with her husband.