Shannon Camlin Ward


How could he have ever been satisfied—
the sharp steel pressed to the pink

skin of the pig's throat—one quick slit,
and then the shrill squeals' screeching halt?

How strangely silent it must have sounded
before the last hot breath bubbling with blood

fell into the bucket below to be carried
off with the flesh-stripped bones

to the creek behind the house. Perhaps
pouring slowly, he found himself consoled

by how, before the color bled to a dull, red cloud,
the blood looked like a hundred satin ribbons

floating downstream. And to see those bones sink,
what a relief it must have been.

© 2013 Shannon Camlin Ward

*This poem was originally published, in a slightly different version, in the fall 2011 issue of Superstition Review.

Author Biography

Shannon Camlin Ward received an MFA in creative writing from North Carolina State University in 2009, and she now teaches composition at her undergraduate alma mater, Methodist University, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She is the recipient of a 2013 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Award, and her work has received support from Yaddo, The Holly House, and The Anderson Center. Her poems have appeared in Great River Review, Superstition Review, Tar River Poetry, and others. She was raised in a renovated slaughterhouse on the outskirts of Wilmington, Ohio.

Critical Response

Blood Creek draws its voice and subjects from Ward's own haunted origins as a woman and a daughter—adeptly translating them into a series of images and stories we can both witness and take part in as readers. The ghostly butcher who appears througout these poems helps ground them in the possible—the real—by anchoring us in an anti-Edenic landscape in which a constant tension between fear and courage makes joy possible. Like her outcast sister who longs to steal her stepfather's truck, "rip the poems from his lips, and drive south," Ward calls us to take part in the telling of her own family's history from both its periphery and center, reminding us all the while that dressing our own cuts—our own wounds—is a risky but necessary business.

—Dorianne Laux

These poems move back and forth between the sharp grit of the real world and the delicate realm of memory, haunted by a history of animal slaughter and blood and especially by ghosts of a lost childhood and a dead sister, gone but not forgotten. Shannon Ward has the poet's eye and an ear for the well-made line. Check her out.

—Joseph Millar

Shannon Ward's new collection demands our attention. Having grown up in a house previously used as a butchery, she threads its history as a metaphor through her poems, letting loose violence and beauty that braid through this river. Both raw and refined, her voice will last with images floating back as ghosts and flowers.

—Elizabeth W. Jackson

©2013 Longleaf Press at Methodist University | Fayetteville, NC