The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®





Trigger warning: These poems were written in response to personal accounts from family members and reading portions of the 10,000 pages of testimony submitted by the members of S.N.A.P. to the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Kelly Fordon



When he descended from on high the lake was calm,
so gray it faded into sky. Even the dogs refused to budge.
Perhaps they too felt dirty, sin-filled and destined
for damnation. How kind of him to pay respects to the fallen.

Woe to us and all who are like us. Surprising that the lake
does not rise up to swallow us. Truth be told I often have
those dreams. When I was young, I wanted to be good and
donned my robes and lit candles with a slender wick.

Father Michael’s nose was always running, the other one
pursued me with his eyes. At night, I held my hands up
towards the sky, hoping God would pull me up to Heaven.
I felt loved then. I must have been mistaken.



Kelly Fordon

One Day


One day in a large American city when it was almost cold
a priest took a teenaged girl on a car ride.

It wasn’t a trip to the gynecologist (they’d already done that).
It wasn’t a trip to the hotel room where she met with the other men (done).

It wasn’t an afternoon when he held a gun to her head
and threatened to kill her family.

On this particular day he took her out to the dump.
On the ground lay the body of a young nun.

She was dead, with maggots crawling all over her face.
See what happens to people who talk? he said.



Kelly Fordon

What the Church Said to Melissa


You will receive
one last payment
of $75,000
and then reparations
have been made.
You had best
by then.
But we will
                        never stop
a monthly
to the priest.
Middle English,
alteration of stipendy
from Latin stipendium
stip-, stips gift
pendere to weigh, pay
      •   He receives a small stipend for his work.
It does not mean
we approve
of what he did,
but wouldn’t it
be                                                     inhuman
not to meet
his needs?



Kelly Fordon



Brian played the guitar, sometimes strummed a bar
and people swarmed the yard. He liked Kurt Cobain,
thought he looked like Jesus, a prophet.

When he turned 12, he couldn’t keep a thing down.
Gagged at the dinner table, gagged while we watched the news.

I thought the doctor was a goner. His face gone gray.
Condyloma Acuminata.

Our pastor wrote to the Vatican. They sent Father ** away.
We believed the church would make him pay.
One day we got news, he had been moved to a parish in Ohio. Reformed--
He worked in a home for unwed mothers.

Six months later, my son tied the anchor rope from our fishing boat
to the climbing tree in the backyard and hung himself.

When he was little, I’d come home to find him sitting on that branch.
I can see Heaven from up here, he always said.


Kelly Fordon



I was a body in a bed.
He just clowning around.
Can we play that game
where you’re dead?

And suddenly I was,
lilies in my hands.
You were just dreaming,
said the lady in white.
You make things up,
you exaggerate. Liar.

Night after night,
desire & dust mites.
A Raggedy Ann doll,
bendy, and easily rent.





These poems started with the testimony of a family member. After that, I read many other testimonies on the CCR website and the SNAP website and interviewed survivors. It is almost impossible for survivors to talk about what happened to them. Some cannot even join support groups because even associating with other survivors is traumatic. Others are not alive to share their testimony.



KELLY FORDON's work has appeared in The Florida Review, The Kenyon Review (KRO), Rattle and other journals. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks. The first one won the 2012 Standing Rock Chapbook Award and the last one, The Witness, won the 2016 Eric Hoffer Award for the Chapbook. Her novel-in-stories, Garden for the Blind, was chosen as a 2016 Michigan Notable Book and won several other awards. She teaches in Detroit.



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