Three Haunted Passages Poems by Sheila Dong

Haunted Passages:
Sheila Dong


i adopt a cat from the shelter,
then forget it in a box.
the way it stares
when i remember. the way
its head rolls off,
a softened apple. no
blood or rot.
just another donation.
on the night bus i feel
sick so i get off
two stops early to walk
in the light-lack, touching
chainlink and weeds. things
fall from branches
and roll toward me.
the bus stops look like people.
the people look like walls
of plastic boxes with animals
squalling inside.


i paint my lips at night
when there’s no one around to see,
cayenne-red, rapture-blue.
i know i am a burden to my friends
the same way i know god
and the devil are one, that is,
in a manner inseparable from
my illness. a shade of aubergine.
i pencil my eyes with dark wings
and float around the kitchen
where demons slip in and out
of a gash in the air,
circling like central heating.
at least the color on my lips is
kindness, at least i can leave proof
of my kisses on the edge of a mug.
darkness snarls and dresses me down
in a bed gone abhorrent.
even so, i wait for the stars.
there is one for every cell
and one for every hue—
“bat out of hell,”
“battle harlequin,”


splits you in two, the self
that is examining and

the self that is examined.
one floats in ink, the other,

in milk. mirror: a door
straddling realms. mirror:

a site for conjuring.
pour a tall vase of ink

into a hollow of milk. see
what beast spreads its wings

under the surface. let it ripple
into a face that can’t be

yours. run your hands through it,
elbow deep in a clogged sink,

elbow-sunk in your fey visage.
mutter curses. feel the surface

congeal to crystal. look in
the mirror. look in it. look

until looking is breaking
a glass across your body.

Sheila Dong is the author of Moon Crumbs (Bottlecap Press, 2019), and has had work published in Stirring, Rogue Agent, and Pretty Owl Poetry, among other places. Sheila holds an MFA from Oregon State University and lives in Tucson, Arizona. In their spare time, Sheila streams too much television and collects instances of oddly specific or otherwise humorous closed captions.


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