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The Axeman

The Axeman
by Daniel M. Shapiro

Barely into his double digits, he hid under a bed while Mom drove an axe into Dad’s chest. The kids would forever call it The Axe Murder House; grass gnarled as paint peeled. Moving from fosterer to fosterer, he would bring only a case. We all must face our fears, the last surrogate told him before he ran away for good, before he strapped the case to his back, the case that held a guitar with blades pointing north and south. When he played till his fingers bled, he could touch either blade to seal his wounds. At the end of the run that lasted seven years, he stood in a clearing. The howls of wolves ringed the surrounding forest, assuring him that no one would ever trespass. As the wolves rested their voices, he would solo, notes dripping like rain from pines. Each time he concluded a melody, he would drive the axe into the ground, causing a tree to spring from the spot, a tree impatient to rise.

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Daniel M. Shapiro is the author of How the Potato Chip Was Invented (sunnyoutside press, 2013). He is a special education teacher who lives in Pittsburgh. His piece "Evil Eye" also appears in this issue of Mirror Dance.

Where do you get the ideas for your poems?

I have always loved fairy tales, and I had planned on writing a series of poems influenced by heavy metal music. I wasn’t sure how to get the metal poems going, so I started to write them as fairy tales, and I went down a list of events and personalities. The poem Evil Eye is a tribute to Ronnie James Dio, who is credited with having invented the devil horns hand signal. I imagined him in upstate New York, where he grew up. (I grew up in upstate New York, too.) The Axeman isn’t about a specific person and also has an odd autobiographical component because there is a house in my hometown that’s known as “the axe murder house” because a woman was killed there, and the crime was never solved.

What inspires you to write and keep writing?

I write poetry because it gives me a way to communicate differently from how I would normally, and the process of creating a poem puts me in a mindset that’s different from my daily mindset. I feel like inspiration is similar to looking at pictures in those Magic Eye books: You stare at a bunch of seemingly unconnected shapes until an image jumps out at you.