Modern Morse Code for Women in Trouble

by Sarah Lilius

…. . .-.. .–.*

I photograph crooked,
                                    my Picasso face
            dots and dashes, twisted pale,
messages for relief from animal
                        instincts and eye strains, grins in the shadows,
                                                men who watch me, real or imaginary,
                                                            they writher and wait for me to sleep.

My hair tendrils delicate, float around
                                    my neck, S after S, … — …** for the moon
            who’s behind me now covered in cotton,
it pulls but doesn’t break easily.

I hear the rip at the movie
                                    theater, the shadow man breaks into what he
            wants, pants spaces like a dog for long minutes.
I see his tongue, suddenly the speakers are so loud
                        I can’t hear the woman scream, but I know she is,

the wetness on her face glistens ..-. . .- .-.***
                                    like the hard candy encoded in my palm.
            I watch the film and wonder if the floor
is sticky where her body isn’t moving.


Sarah Lilius is the author of the full-length poetry collection, Dirty Words (Indie Blu(e) Publishing 2021) and six chapbooks. Some of her publication credits include Fourteen Hills, Boulevard, Massachusetts Review and New South. She lives in Virginia with her husband and two sons. Her website is


Photography by: Felix Mooneeram