Nancy Shiffrin

“Declaring Sovereignty” by Nancy Shiffrin

Declaring Sovereignty

two men describe their friendship
they go afternoons to Samurai movies
watch old warriors strut
roar wave swords
then stagger from the theater
arms locked
unsheathe their own weapons
admire each others piss
it’s chemical smell
its splash its sparkle in sunlight
they want to write their names on the wall

the boy crouched in a corner of my classroom
who stole felt pens from my pocket
his touch so delicate
his face buried in newsprint
his shuffling gait
my phone number stored
in his glue-riddled brain for so many years
my spine stiffens against his sodden plea
“be my girlfriend”

the spider in my bathtub
curls tight against the water’s
downward vortical thrust
slowly unfolds
begins a long slip-slide up
I see how life wants life

I turn from the sun
My plants brown at the edges
I open the door
Allow cats to escape
My hair on fire
New wine in my veins
I stomp, dance, howl at the moon
Shrivel the men who come to me
Vaunting their mystic pleasures
Scrape their seed from my womb


Nancy Shiffrin earned her Master of Arts degree in English studying with Anais Nin. She earned her Ph.D. at The Union Institute studying Jewish-American women authors. Her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, New York Quarterly, Earth’s Daughters, Lummox Journal, The Canadian Jewish Outlook, A Cafe in Space, Religion and Literature, Shofar, and numerous other publications. She has received awards and honorable mentions from The Academy of American Poets, The Poetry Society of America, The Alice Jackson Foundation, The Dora Teitelboim Foundation, and most recently first prize in the Angela Consolo Mankiewicz Poetry Contest Lummox Journal 2019. Her poetry collection The Vast Unknowing (Infinity Publishing) is available from Her collections Game With Variations and Flight are forthcoming from