Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon


          And Dinah the daughter of Leah

          which she bare unto Jacob, went out

          to see the daughters of the land.—Genesis 34:1


I grew up watching them cut their eyes,

grit their teeth at each other.

My aunt entering a room

stiffened my mother. They warred

years over that old man

asleep in the back room—

my father, spent.


Their weapons: sons

they pushed from their bodies.

My mother bore six,

prayed with each Now

he will not hate me. He

will not wipe himself

with the sheet, leave

my bed without looking

back. Tonight,

when he comes he will

not picture my sister.

I never played with girls,


only this army

of brothers they mustered

feeding my father female

bodies, other women snatched

into his bed, delivered

like sacrifices. They consumed

themselves, wasteful, greedy.


When I went out into the city

that day I wanted to meet

women who looked

at each other,

whose bodies kept

their softness

in the presence of their sisters.

Instead, I met a man,


my family’s definitions

for love, body, weapon.




“Dinah” is from Black Swan (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002).