Hassidic Witch Murderer, by Tyler Vile

Tyler Vile is a writer, performer, and activist from Baltimore, MD whose novel-in-verse, Never Coming Home, is available on Topside Press. She is a member of the Baltimore Transgender Alliance leadership team and the vocalist in a punk band called Anti-Androgen. Her interactive poetry zine, Hassidic Witch Murderer is available on her website, tylervile.wordpress.com. She aspires to one day become the world’s greatest transsexual yenta.

Photo credit: Justin Tsucalas

1 Oct. 1842

Dr. Wm. Peake
died with a bowie
knife in his heart
and a pistol in
his hand.

I fixed my eyes
on him
as he

Bastard tried to take
my wife.

Gallows Hill

Rebecca Nurse came
through the hinges of
my door, grasped my

touched them to
the seat of
a wooden cart.

The black horse
in front rode
steadily as she
bowed her head.

Ann Putnam
“Goody Nurse,
Goody Nurse!”

Her body
hung on a branch,
swallowed in fog.

Geldene Medina

I am fourteen,
I close my eyes.

My children are teachers,
writers, physicists, organizers,
shopkeepers. My children are
born not burned, thank G-d.

My children are not born yet,
thank G-d. My husband —
I have not met him.

Grandfather burns against the wick,
oh G-d. I need to sleep now, I think,
dreams of challah on tables, dreams of
kinderlach, gefilte fish, and song.

Dreams of black smokestacks, tanks,
dear G-d. Dreams of Turna in tears.

I see seven children playing on the pier,
six of them grow up in a land of gold.

Come With Me, America.

I’ve looked for you in mirrors full of goatees and zits,

I’ve lost you in unstrapped velcro shoes as crutch cuffs spun around my arm and made me kiss the concrete, tried to catch up to you at every stoplight from Baltimore to Barcelona, fell down stone steps with crutches dangling on my arm, split my head open on locker doors; blood gushing out to meet you,

I am nobody’s reincarnation, everybody’s asshole cousin-in-law, and somebody else’s idea of a good time,

When my head throbs, yours does too, when my hands glow with warmth, I put them wherever you need me to, we shiver in terror together, arms clasped around each other, breathing like broken oxygen tanks, I wail through the decades like a drunk trying to shatter the mask of manhood,

Let’s dig deep and plant our seed in fertilely soiled fruit and flesh, teenage prayers sink teeth into crevices of writhing bodies, fucking in the sauna and joining in droplets of sweat,

Where was I when my hands stopped trembling? Did you catch me there?

Wait! I think my right thigh is ringing, rattling its bone like an army-crawling baby,

I touch my eyebrow arch to see if you’re still sitting there, you rascal, you radical, you mighty feared enemy of the college Republican, who landed on Plymouth Rock and Coney Island, who has unnamed relatives gassed in Polish boxcars and burned at witch trials, fear pours like concrete through your bloodstream,

I know you, gone from turtle to rabbit on a love machine killing fascists, I’ll give you the craziest ride you can imagine,

Bowl me over with your eyelids, let’s bust out of cocoons under streetlights at Wyman or constellations by the Mason-Dixon,

We can’t hold back anymore, this is our birthright!

The Vendor

Those machines were my children.
They clanked and wailed,
lit up when they saw me.

When my pinball machine
was pregnant with quarters
I would empty her
to pay for the gumballs.
When my jukebox
stopped singing
I could hear
the soda fountains crying
and I’d rush over to fill
my cup with carbonated tears.

Little coin carriers lined up
to ride bouncing ducks
as peanuts and pennies
littered the floor
I swept them in
to the mouth of a dustpan
and fed the rest
to my family.

The Night After Shiva

Grandma Fanny sat
at the foot of my bed
and stroked my hair.

She sang a song in
Yiddish, I don’t
remember the words.
I ran my finger across
the wrinkles in her knuckles.

Her nightgown brushed
against the floor
and she faded
as the morning
started to close in.


Grandfather held
his beard over
the candle,
closed his eyes,
“Baruch Hashem”
for hours
before sleep.


Vivian walked across
the living room floor,
clouds carpeting the sky.

I stopped putting stickers
on the window and
watched as she paced
between the couches.

The same skeleton
that held me as a baby
faded into hardwood.

My throat too tight to scream.


Get the fuck away from me.
I can’t see you, but I know
you’re breathing on me,
I haven’t sleep more than
an hour in weeks, I am
a medium or a crazy person,
so tell me what you want
from me. Who can I get
you in touch with?

Ghosts aren’t real,
I swear to my own
skepticism, I need
a break from all this
fix me, my head’s
all fucked up.
Go away.

I carry you in my DNA,
rape, murder, genocide,
mine. Guilt, regret, numbness,
yours. Show me the people
I would hate to become,
let me hate them,
eyes closed.