Anne Barngrover

All Your Gods Are Gaslighters
Every time I look for women, I become more bird.
— Zaina Alsous

Where I live, birds take to the sky
like dragons—cranes and wood storks,

white-phase blue heron. In my mind
they are women. Powerful.

I have this power,
too, but I don’t think it matters.

These women—I search for them
in stories: the goddess of vegetation,

the daughter of a nocturnal god,
beings from an archaic world

whose heads are cut and wrought
as weapons, tongues malformed

into swallows. Alone, I watch
the six-part documentary series

and stumble over the words
I’ve shoved beneath a wetland

of grease and fog…He would build
me up then he would break me…

then…then…Sometimes I think I see
a face staring at me from the roadkill.

Sometimes I think we were all used
by the same god. But nobody needs

another litany. I started to believe
that I was nothing without…that he became…

powerful. These women
ascend and I watch from below:

the one with her glinting silver
feathers—airborne, suspended in light,

she’s a dagger, an arrow, a sword.



Anne Barngrover’s most recent book of poems, Brazen Creature, was published with University of Akron Press in 2018 and was a finalist for the 2019 Ohioana Book Award in Poetry. Currently she is an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at Saint Leo University, where she is on the faculty in the Low-Residency MA program in Creative Writing. She lives in Tampa, Florida, and you can find her online at