SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

Cannibal Woman


I’m looking for the right words, but all I can think of is: 
parachute or ice water. 

There’s nothing, but this sailboat inside me, slowly trying to catch 
a wind, maybe there’s an old man on it, maybe a small child, 

all I know is they’d like to go somewhere. They’d like to see the sail 

straighten go tense and take them some place. But instead they wait,
a little tender wave comes and leaves them 
           right where they were all along. 

How did this happen? No wind I can conjure anymore. 

My father told me the story of a woman larger than a mountain,
who crushed redwoods with her feet, who could swim a whole lake

in two strokes—she ate human flesh and terrorized the people. 
I loved that story. She was bigger than any monster, or Bigfoot, 
           or Loch Ness creature—

a woman who was like weather, as enormous as a storm. 

He’d tell me how she walked through the woods, each tree 
coming down, branch to sawdust, leaf to skeleton, each mountain 
            pulverized to dust. 

Then, they set a trap. A hole so deep she could not climb out of it.  

         (I have known that trap.) 

Then, people set her on fire with torches. So she could not eat them
anymore, could not steal their children or ruin their trees. 

I liked this part too. The fire. I imagined how it burned her mouth, 
her skin, and how she tried to stand but couldn’t, how it almost felt

good to her—as if something was finally meeting her desire with desire. 

The part I didn’t like was the end, how each ash that flew up in the night 
           became a mosquito, how she is still all around us 
in the dark, multiplied. 

I’ve worried my whole life that my father told me this because 
she is my anger: first comes this hunger, then abyss, then fire, 

and then a nearly invisible fly made of ash goes on and on eating mouthful  

           after mouthful of those I love.



Ada Limón is the author of five books of poetry, including The Carrying, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and was named one of the top five poetry books of the year by the Washington Post. Her fourth book Bright Dead Things was named a finalist for the National Book Award, a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She serves on the faculty of Queens University of Charlotte Low Residency M.F.A program, and the online and summer programs for the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. She also works as a freelance writer in Lexington, Kentucky.



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