I had a dream where ashes rained down from the sky
the night made so black
it felt primal

in the dream my father is saying

he means me,
the one with hands like birds
feet that don’t sit quietly

i step onto the altar, feet bare, drumming,
naked as the day i was born
the knife my father wields rises-

i change the dream,

i am no longer naked,
no longer an unwilling sacrifice to the god of violence

instead i dress in a wine stained shirt
face covered in day old make up and i am smiling,
grinning like a beast, an animal gone wild,
like Dionysus after a feast
i laugh, wildly,
reach deep into the dark and bring out the worst in me

i point out the scars he left,
the PTSD, the depression,
the anxiety i get from
being too close to strangers

i whisper
‘it’s all you,’ into his ear
my father backs away
shivering under my gaze
i like to think
he feels some form of regret
regret is not enough to stop a trial
and here i am judge, jury, executioner.

his plead?
not guilty,
that i had deserved everything i got
i ask about the attempted kidnapping
he is oddly silent

the jury deliberates

the verdict?

my father sobs as he dragged out of the courtroom,
i stand with an ax in my hand, let it fall limply to the ground beside his head as he begs.

I let him live

he runs like a dog with its tail between its legs.

victory doesn’t feel like it should,
there is a hollow joy
the emptiness of the waking world
wrapped around me like a blanket
i shiver through its stitches

mercy is a gift
i had to learn how to give
and i am not sure,
i like it


Keith J. Castillo, 18, is a nonbinary, disabled and mentally ill poet. His works are forthcoming in both Crab Fat Magazine and The Fem. Keith can be found on twitter at @nonbinarybird.

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, prose, reviews, and interviews from marginalized creators.