May 2017 Featured Writer: Elisabeth J. Ferrell-Horan

Swimming with Elephants Publications would like to introduce you to our May 2017 Featured Writer: Elisabeth J. Ferrell-Horan.

Elisabeth J. Ferrell-Horan resides in rural Vermont with her husband and two young boys. She finds happiness spending time in the barn with her animals and being surrounded by the sounds of nature in its raw beauty and form.  Elisabeth has a BA in American Literature from Southern Oregon State College and an MA in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. She also attended Universidad de las Americas in Puebla, Mexico as an undergrad. She is pursuing her MFA in poetry at Lindenwood.

Elisabeth is working on several full length manuscripts – this one regarding depression, another that focuses on animals and the environment a third about surviving sexual abuse – a nonfiction effort combined with poetry which would speak to all survivors of abuse, including young readers, who may be suffering in silence.

We are thrilled to have Elisabeth J. Ferrell-Horan as our May Featured Writer and hope that you enjoy her work just as much as we have.

Stay Mommy

I have walked through low valleys
with the shadow of death as my ally.
I have met what might take me across.

I did fear the evil –
deep down in my toes.
It smelt like charred bones;
smoky and rancid as burnt pig nose.

I felt the close breath of its chant in my ear:
“Come on, come on”, I’ll show you the fear,
tickling my throat with its
white, bristling whiskers.

I felt its relentless pull on my ankles
dragging me under, swirling eddies of rancor,
drowning in the rain
of riptide currents in my brain.

I felt the sticky threads of spider webs
crisscrossing my face, begging me to play;
foreshadowing decay.

I held onto the thought
of your soft little hands
cupping my cheeks;
the warmth of your fingers
tore me free from my cohorts –

Quieted their urgent calls;
echoes rippling into the fray.
God wanted me I’m sure.

For although I was a demon in my own right,
wandering through the dust and darkness in
the lonely corners of my mind –

A little angel named you, –
alighted on my shoulder
and softly whispered:
“stay mommy”.

Wellbutrin in my Brain

There is Wellbutrin in my brain,
and I’d like to get it out.

It has stayed far too long –
the formidable clout
of its club fisted edges,

That pried out my eyes
and deftly snipped stitches
from my brain –

In dreams my teeth
have mostly fallen out.

“And I wonder”,
I whisper aloud – too loudly:
where I was, what I did?
yesterday in a cloud….

Where’s my phone or my wallet,
my mind, my disguise?

Who took them?
Was it you or that stealthy NDRI?

Eating all my grey matter
with tea like Mad Hatter.

I’m fat and puffy yet endlessly hungry,
my hair in my hands and
my back to the wall of a cliff;
then falling, falling
into a Dali sea –

Rife and roiling with
lunatics like me.

All I did was try;
but life at times proves hard –
With little sleep, little babies, little men.
Or maybe a Leprechaun did it to me –

While megalomaniacs
with their perky careers,
nod their heads,
dot their i’s
then turn a deaf ear.

I am dying in here.
I can’t seem get out,
from the weight of the pain
and horrendous gout –

Like the snout of a ghastly Frisco seal –
I’m snorting smoke signals
in a hopeless appeal –
Could I make this up?
God saw me not –
Nor heard me screaming:
“I forgot!”

How to go on? And go on I must,
for there is nothing
in the skies you see –
At least nothing that’s just:

No Angels, no demons,
nor circles with Dante;
No pearly white gates
nor red horns on Satan;

Not even your naughty Minotaur –
with its head of you, man
and the flesh of my breast –

No matter how much you want there to be.

Only worms and dirt,
coffins and me –
our own little babies and the
endless sea.

I rose adrift on a raft of twigs
a sinking hull with whipstitch lashings,
a remnant of what I learned while falling;
no sail, no compass –
nets endlessly trawling.

In a storm for the ages
I’ve washed up on shore
battered and broken yet
drowning no more.

Begging for water;
fresh – not salt laden,
I’ve enough in my well
of the tears now abated.

So what will become of
my huge frontal lobe?

Of my life, of my heart –
both woefully splayed,
spread eagle on rocks –

Seagulls ripping away
the entrails and innards
of my body’s own pockets –
Paired with once fragrant wine
gone awry in my crotch.

They pick clean the memories
of you, sad man, and me –

Remember us once and our glassy eyed stares?
Glowering back from the page –
now, no one’s there.

I alighted the rooftop
couldn’t leave, couldn’t jump
so I held on and prayed
I had nipples to pump –

Cough me up, spit me out!
I leave in my wake
deep oceans of grief,
waves cresting with guilt.

The Painful divide
of perceived demise.

I’m alive and I know
there’s no place to go back to.
Our pain is only as deep
as we practice.


Tarped Against the Rain

I try not to blame my sadness on the rain.
What’s the point of owning our pain?
Mood is affected by what is endured:
My wrinkles, my wounds; all I’ve gone through.

Gone too is the strain –
The misguided and vain
Desire to be anywhere near you.

I shall now entomb you softly in sand
Roll up your black magic in the carpet of land.

I will miss your mummy-white fingers
I used to adore their lingering touch;
The way they covered my mouth –
I bit them off and spit them out.

Ha! Embossed, glossy scarabs to frighten me now?
Still a snap to make me cry?
Nice try.

You may resist my gladness;
As a human who has consumed
Victuals of our tears, our constant fears –
Familiar as the map of lines on my face.

I often trace the smile of a scar on my belly:
I know better than you what I’m worth.

Now all that’s left to sip is the drip, drip of rain,
That falls on those who still shuffle in their rooms –
With cottony mouths; locked in opulent tombs.

Their lips softly murmur, fingers reaching for braille;
I absorb their pain through my heels on the ground –

And it soaks into the earth
This drumming of rain in my head –
That seeps into my heart
And waters down the hurt –

Weak cocktails of our hearts and livers;
Composting flesh about the alabaster bones.

On second thought, I shouldn’t blame you,
Nor your love for whipping me silly.
I’ve seen your soul saunter just behind you,
Sneaking up on me in dark alleys
Spiking my drinks, my fears.

Your own tomb runneth over with gluttonous pride,
Obese and sloppy now that you’ve died.
Acrid vapor forming droplets anew –
Baptizing my burns,
Gentle as the turning of youth.

And to not incite some retribution –
I’ll happily leave you be:
(I’ve decided it best you forget about me.)

I’ll hide in my vehicle, my vacuum, my womb –
Safe from you and your imminent doom.
Like a horse high above –
I’m a weather vane;
I learned to lend my face to the rain.

And I know my secret places
For they gallop freely in me –
Alas, the past has colicked my fair steed
So I buried him as well
Alongside our precious memories.

And you’re next fat horse;
Swallowing my skeleton key
Was not a funny joke;
You’ll choke and choke –

And my fire will corrode
The metal bone in your throat –
Scalding acid rain
Drizzled on our love sundae in vain.

I’ve had to earn my hard, flat freedom
And you’ll not eat me again.
Ariels all rise twice, you know –

If not nine lives, then dabble in three:
Virginia, Sylvia; and finally me.
My body with worms and nothing left to flee –
Tarped against the wet, wet rain.


My Self

There is no rest for people like me.
There are witch hunts happening all the time for us.
If others aren’t chasing us;
We are chasing our own tails at midnight.
People like you haven’t known
People like me –
What I’m like –
Or how nice I really can be.

You have been unnerved by me,
Made uncomfortable by me,
Understandably, you had to protect your kids from me.

But what you forgot is that I am your sister, your husband, your mother, your lover.
I am you in mixed acrylic on a Pollack canvas.


Rain Dance

Drips of rain from the Aspen leaves –
like a post storm therapist helping me discuss
from whence came the traumatic stress –
unaware, unwelcome liquid.

While drumming showers stream all night –
serenading in my dreams
like lost Latin lovers beneath my window.
I awake, alone and reminiscent –
Mariachi strumming through the rain.

At times the thunder scares my children and I say:
“There there, mommy’s here”.
With no rationale for this lie of mine –
and I tell it to them all the time.

The gentle soakings – thorough as penance
swing across the lawn;
washing green hair in the muddy puddles –
I’ve brought a razor along.

While the unshaven meadows that lead to the forest;
run off like I once did, restless:
a Red Riding Hood fleeing
the wolf-like metronome
that chimes all the time in my mind.

And a misting, at the end
lazy moisture left behind –
an upside down smile of warmth;
manicured eyebrows painted in color.

With no pot of gold to find;
much better, a deep hug of hues –
that only fades away
due to the laws of nature.

Prior Publication Credits –

Stay Mommy and Wellbutrin in my Brain first appeared in The Feminist Wire, 10/13/2016.

Tarped Against the Rain appeared in Lady. Literary Journal, December edition.

My Self appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic, December issue.

Rain Dance appeared in The Basil O’Flaherty, Feminist Voices, November, 2016