Commandments by Nicole Byrne

+ + by Inna Mosina


1) Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
        I would kiss Beth’s feet if she’d let me, hand-pick wheat to bake her loaves of bread,
        carve her poems into stone tablets, part any sea, make myself a slave if it would please
        her. I’d build her a cathedral and conduct mass daily to preach her words, hold baptisms
        in the waters of the Mississippi.

2) Thou shalt not make unto thee an idol, any graven image, or any likenesses.
        Cigarettes, beer, weed, and wine. My body is an altar for the worship of intoxication. I
        find ecstasy only when it comes in white tablets and the times I am closest to He, most
        High, is when I am.

3) Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.
        Other names I use: Omnipotent Cocksucker, Useless Sky Daddy, Almighty Piece of
        Shit, Blizzard Jizzer, The Tea Party’s Imaginary Friend.

4) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
        Every Sunday I scramble to finish all I have not done in a week. I am on my hands and
        knees with oven cleaner and later I bleach stains from shirts too delicate for the regular
        wash. I write checks to pay overdue bills and I salvage anything broken. I haven’t been
        inside of church in years. By sundown, I am exhausted, drunk, and I ache from the effort
        of work.

5) Honour thy father and thy mother.
        There are bruises on my body and inside my brain. My mother beat me with wooden
        spoons until they snapped like frozen branches and threatened to abandon me, her
        suitcase already half-packed. When I was sixteen, I cried to her about being molested by
        my orthodontist. She told me I was overreacting and reminded me I had an appointment
        on Thursday. My father smoked himself oblivious, hiding in the garage with Mavericks.

6) Thou shalt not kill.
        I cut the throats of younger Nicoles and hang them limp from trees. Each night I grieve
        in my sleep and dream away any regrets. I destroy and rebuild myself with rivers of
        blood and pillars of salt and I know that each me I create will die by my own hand.

7) Thou shalt not commit adultery.
        When I kissed Mariah up against her boyfriend’s bedroom door, she moaned and said “I
        wish he would bite my lip like that.” I pushed her onto his bed, sucked and nibbled at
        her until my her hands were under my clothes and her nails dug into my skin. I left her
        shirtless and painted with sweat and took with me the taste of almost-broken flesh.

8) Thou shalt not steal.
        It’s much better to do good in a way that no one knows anything about. There is no
        sinner like a young saint. I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I
        am, I am, I am.

9) Thou shalt not bear false witness.
        The only thing I have never lied about is my name.

10) Thou shalt not covet.
        My heart wants to want—hot showers scented with eucalyptus, thick steaks, and hairpulling
        pinned down sex—but it is never satisfied. It repeats, give me, give me, give me,
        and refuses to finish.

Nicole Byrne

Nicole Byrne suffers from a crippling addiction to poetry. She self-medicates with copious amounts of black coffee, avocados, hot sauce, and rock ‘n’ roll. The treatment does not appear to be working and she hopes it never does. As of August 2015, she has uprooted herself from Maine to move out to Kansas where she is embarking on the quest of receiving her MFA at Wichita State University. Her work has previously been published in The Sandy River Review, Sunset Liminal, and Green Blotter. Find her online at