Charlie Bondhus

Charlie B.Charlie Bondhus’s Charlie Bondhus’s second book, All the Heat We Could Carry, won the 2013 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award and the Publishing Triangle’s 2014 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry. Previous publications include How the Boy Might See It (Pecan Grove Press, 2009), and two chapbooks, What We Have Learned to Love—winner of the Brickhouse Books 2008-2009 Stonewall Award—and Monsters and Victims (Gothic Press, 2010). His poetry appears or is set to appear in numerous periodicals, including POETRY, Tupelo Quarterly, Midwest Quarterly, The Hawai’i Review, CounterPunch, The Alabama Literary Review, and Cold Mountain Review, among others. He teaches at Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey, and is the Poetry Editor at The Good Men Project (


Jeffrey Dahmer Talks to His Father


The first time I killed
a boy I was
a dumb teenager,
home alone,
tired of drunk
and jerking off
to muscle magazines,
even the centerfold
with his body like a basket
of polished, black fruit
was as worn as the questions
you’d been asking me about my future—
college, the military, work,

in a few years I’d try them all
and each would be like the shirts
Mom bought me: too big, too tight, too itchy.
My brain was a squirrel
trapped in a flooding basement;
I drove because it was hot
and the car had A/C.

When I found him
he had bare arms and a raised thumb,
a mouth wisped with corn silk.
I tried, Dad, I really did.


We sat on opposite ends
of my mattress, listening to Judas Priest,
swallowing Pabst Blue Ribbon, and talking about girls.

The cans left sweat
on our lips as I drank
to him, corn-fed and scarred
from too much sun.

You’d been gone for months, discovering religion,
and Mom was somewhere in Wisconsin.

Then as now, what I wanted most
was a friend I could touch.

He was almost to the door
when I drove all ten, metal pounds
of my desire into his skull.


I lingered by the broken remains, imagining you
reading your Bible, and wanting
to ask about the soul, whether it lives
in the body or is an absentee landlord.

Taking him apart
was like unwrapping
a piece of paper that’s been folded
twelve times and counting the creases.

I remembered
the homemade Father’s Day card
with the big, imprecise heart,
stray marks
on the cream-colored page
like the blood spatter
I scrubbed off the linoleum,
dissolving guilt
into godly cleanliness.


I left him in the drainage pipe
until he was nothing but broken
bits of gray bone that didn’t smell anymore.

Mom was still having seizures
that made her twitch,
like the dead frog I galvanized
at the science fair,
earning an A. Your hand
fluttered on my shoulder,
blessing me uncertainly,
not knowing if either of us
had the right to be proud.


A year later,
I hauled the fragments out,
took a sledgehammer,
and scattered
the flour-thick dust
in the forest, thinking
of the farmer in the parable,
and how even seed that lands
on rocky soil can produce
a bitter kind of fruit.

2 thoughts on “Charlie Bondhus”

  1. Wow. the poem tugged at me–haunting images and just-right cadence. I look forward to more from this poet.

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