Literary Orphans

Punkin by Dawn S. Davies

detras_by_mariya petrova

At first, there is nothing. No plans, no action. No thought. Then one day, you hear a thing and it is dampened and swishing, and life suddenly becomes warm and simple. Out you go. Your lungs rip open and it hurts and you bellow. The expanse of space in which you flail frightens you. Light sears. Your mother holds you, warms you, and when you are calm and quiet, your father receives you, looks you in the eye and calls you his Punkin. They swaddle you, feed you, press you to them. They save your umbilical stump in a cedar box. You are their treasure. You sleep and wake. Then sleep again. Then you wake. There you lie, behind bars, or on the floor, and you squirm, and push and toil only to study the pattern of sun on the floor or your own fingers gripping. You howl. You press up and stand. Your mother leads you stumbling and flapping outside. Your first steps are in the warm summer mud, to the barn where you smell the sweet dung and watch your father bending in the fuzzy light, crooning love songs to the cows, patting your mother’s rump softly as he squeezes past her in the garden. Your mother’s hands let go to the sound of your laughter. You eat and grow and play. The trees are your faeries, the mud is your pudding, the chickens are your sisters. You run and leap. You twist in the air. You laugh. You weep with sorrow. You bleed, and your mother starts to look fat and soft and stupid. Your father’s teeth are crooked. You try to tell them. The word Punkin makes your lip curl. The chickens start to smell, and the dull, sick light of the city begins to call your name. So you pack your father’s old bag and leave in the dark, mud sucking your boots backwards, marking the trail for your parents to see in the morning. You spoil for something lavish, something deluxe and glimmering, and you find it in the throb of a new flock. You feel a rhythm, but also a twinge of desire, and it makes your throat tighten. You enter the dark, dancing clutch and you are no longer anybody’s Punkin. You become Kat, or Kit or Jo-Jo or Franki. You take your place carefully, then lay open your fresh, bright skin to the new brood. They peck your face, your eyes, your breasts, but they take you in, they pull you deep into the fold. You sleep and wake. Then sleep again. The first time you awaken with a stranger, you begin to sense goodness in what you left behind. You feel shame, but you do it again. Then again. Time passes but you cannot stop. You are worse off, and although this is clear in your mind, and a part of you wants to, you don’t go home. You don’t know how. You don’t even know where it is.

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Dawn S. Davies has an MFA from Florida International University. She is the recipient of the FIU UGS Provost Award for Best Creative Project, the Kentucky Women Writers Gabehart Prize, and has been awarded residencies with the Vermont Studio Center, Can Serrat, and SLS Disquiet. Her work has appeared in River Styx, Brain, Child, Hippocampus, Cease, Cows, Saw Palm, Green Mountains Review, Ninth Letter, Fourth Genre, and elsewhere. You can find out more about her at


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–Art by Karamelo

–Art by Mariya Petrova-Existencia

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