Mustard Gas

By Francesca Wilkin

Photograph by John Bonetti

Photograph by John Bonetti


I. my friend the drug dealer


over coffee and greasy hair in baseball caps,

there is discussion of alcohol

as a trigger.

that word, heavy like granite in the mouth,

tastes like iron—


trigger, trigger. trigger.

I find 6 grams of marijuana in his bag and

when I go home I burn sage to

kill the ghosts I still smell remnants of

in the fibers of my flannel;


that word, heavy like a branding on my wrists,

feels like fire and tastes like smoke,

blood on the rocks;



trigger, trigger. trigger.


ii. of recovery


I am learning how to grow new succulents

from dying leaves.

life born, birthed in sand and

sprouts growing from pores;


emerging among skin

rubbed raw from ripped jeans.

warm water washing dishes and

lost dreams down the drain,

it looks like steam kissing faucets and

hands red from soap;


in my books orange bottles mean two different things,

kicking backwards onto your broken throne

and swallow the contents.

I am not fearless because I never have been;



my veins look more like bridges than

rivers to spill across my tile floor,

waterfalls turn to wood and create;


the bags under my eyes are still gardens but

now they look more blue than



bluebells and hydrangea replacing

crocuses and nightshade.

my bones are no longer gravestones breaking through the ground of my skin,

they are castles,

pinnacles of light and adoration creating themselves,

layering of stone upon stone building up to

the tissue of the brain,


I love the folds of myself I cannot see.


iii. reasons I’m going to hell


in the midst of dirty piles of snow

I wished for rain and

in the midst of a desert full of old sins

I wished for a big blue truck with working tires

but I know I have nowhere to go;


the divots that were once dried up streams are now just roads

are just dead ends and


iv. of relapse


they once said not to create scar tissue

out of reckless impulsion

but you weave scars of red and white fibers;


bad habits turned to hobbies like

kissing knives or

hugging a shattered mirror.

the holes in my hands let relationships

slip through jagged cuticle ends and

I am still seeing shadows out of the corners of my eyes,

and I am not yet breathing,

I am drowning;


there is water all over my bathroom floor,

blue like the veins I thought were bridges

and I burned them up,

the ash on the windows and mirrors and

I am chugging, chugging, chugging

and that word tastes like blood and booze;



trigger, trigger. trigger.