Featured Palabracita: Piper Mullins

La Palabra is honored to present poet, Piper Mullins as a featured Palabracita. Piper Mullins has a gift of portraying brutal life experiences into beautifully poignant poetry. While relaying tragedy, she also offers hope and reveals on window of honesty into the human experience. Please enjoy this small collection of her work.



Piper Mullins is an English-Writing major on a life-long education plan.  She is Co-Slammaster of the Denver Mercury Cafe Slam and was a competing member of this year’s Mercury Cafe Slam Team.  

Piper has been writing poems since age six.  She uses each poem as an opportunity to grow as a person and a writer.  Piper aspires to find a career in the healing arts, and to continue writing and reading poems to whomever wishes to hear them.



Poetry by Piper Mullins


i used to think love
could neither be created
or destroyed—
it only changes forms.

at 22,
punching fists
choking hands,
and unwanted penetration

and proved:

can be destroyed.


my mother’s hands
left trails of broken glass
inside me.

she taught me how adults drown sorrows
when I was five,
poured Budweiser down my throat
while I spit and coughed.

I am not unaware
that every hand that touches me
risks being cut.

I am not unaware that
I am, at times,
a drowning sorrow.

the first day of kindergarten
she was the only person
I wanted to hold my hand.

her absence
impacted me
more than the twenty-some welts
her hairbrush raised on my skin the next year.


when I was seven,
my older brother told me
“only girls with long blonde hair
are beautiful.”


I dreamt once,
I was medusa.
I shattered mirrors.
used pieces to
kill every snake writhing on my head,
and gouge out my own eyes.

no heroes were turned to stone.


when I was 22,
my best friend
gave me a piece of shattered window glass.
when they broke into the car,
it shattered uneven.
spider-web lines in the larger pieces
showed where the blows landed
but did not fully fracture it.

I remember saying it was beautiful.
he agreed.

when I got home,
It was the first thing
I placed
in an empty jar,
labeled “dreams. “


I lived a year of my life bald.

some people think
removing what’s dead
is growth.
I am here to tell you,
when only accomplished in the
physical sense,
it is called “neurosis.”

was the age
I learned
what a man’s hands
and body


I’m certain
when I was in the womb,
my mother fed me
her doubts.

I will never conceive my own children.
After two miscarriages,
choking hands, and
unwanted penetration,
was a choice
I made.

for this reason,
my father believes
I will never be complete but
the one thing I’ve come to realize
is I am not
someone else’s hole
to fill.

the only person I can make whole
is myself.


I still have a scar
from catching my flesh on a broken mirror
in the garage, when I was six.

I am no longer fond
of being alone
with mirrors.


my hair is
the longest it has been
in my life.

I have not cut it
since I made my last suicide plan.
I promised myself
it was my
suicide plan.

I don’t want healing
to be symbolic
this time.


I am 29 years old
and I don’t want to die.

I still have not learned
how to be loved,

have gone months without ever
looking myself in the eye.

I make it a practice now:

force myself to look in the mirror

force myself to get out of bed

my body
a cage,
but it is an open one.

It is my choice to live in it

if love
can be destroyed,

I have to believe,
it can be created.


Poem For My Mother

There is a picture of my mother,
she is wearing an orange bikini.
I am very young,
I am wearing an orange bathing suit,
and our family looks in this one moment

I have spent hours
staring at this picture,
trying to remember that moment.

What I can remember
are the years my father spent out of the picture
building malls, finishing basements,

and how my brother left as soon as he possibly could,
pulled the plug in the bathroom drain
and let his memories go with the bathwater.
When I was young,
I could hear them,
I listened when
they coursed through the veins of the house
like too many secrets
I am still trying to hear.

I grew up knowing
that my mother was a “paranoid schizophrenic.”
under this moniker
I always imagined her a hurricane,
brutal, and devastating,
then, all too soon,
gone and forgotten.

When I was a teenager,
they changed the diagnosis,
to “severe depression.”
she was so sad,
that sometimes
she heard voices,
and those voices were so loud,
they drowned any that weren’t in her head.

She blinked in
and out
of this reality
always bobbing under the surface,
waiting for the wrong circumstances to
pull her screaming and flailing from the water.

there were whole days
I spent screaming
to be sure I was in the same room.
It was clear that I wasn’t.

One summer,
my cousin and I
threw shoes
inches in front of her face
to see if she would notice.
she didn’t.

I sometimes wonder
if my voice was a distant child on a beach
or something she could hear while my hands
held her under.

I like to think
that she could feel the rays
of some strange sun on her face,
that she was on vacation
in some tropical retreat
that was too nice to return from.

I think my mother is losing her hearing.
I don’t think anyone else notices.

They all got so used to her never hearing them—
whole sentences lost to the ether,
whole conversations had with themselves—
the angry,
conditioned response:
everyone just keeps TALKING LOUDER.
I think there is something wrong with her ears,
and sometimes I wonder
if it was all that screaming I did when I was young.

she went days at a time without eating.
I learned to cook early.
when I was eight,
I put my hand on the burner
to hoist myself into the cabinet for a bowl
for macaroni.
I never forgot how hot something can burn
even when you can’t see it’s surface glowing.

My mother
will spend the rest of her life
swallowing handfuls of pills
for a depression as large as the ocean.

Sometimes when things get overwhelming,
all I can hear is crashing water.

My mother swallows handfuls of pills.
They are a hopeful time machine.
They are her attempt to get back the years that passed
while she was floating,
they are the sunlight of the faces of her family,
now unrecognizable in their age.
Sometimes when she looks in the mirror,
and says,
“I’ve gotten so old,”

I wonder if she wants to go back to floating.
how young she was then,
how she wore her skin
less like a lifejacket,
but instead like a bikini.

They tell me
that if I swallow handfuls of pills,
my life could be so much easier.
That I might not need those memories back so badly.

They tell me that everyone needs a life raft sometimes,
That it’s okay to ask for help
and I want to tell them
That I will always be part ocean.

That the sound of things eroding
will always be more familiar to me
than the sounds of things being built.

But when I am floating on my back
in the middle of a hurricane,
I can always feel the sun burning my skin
from just behind the clouds.

and that sometimes,
this is a secret
I wish I had shared with my mother.

I have to ask her to please
have the doctor check her hearing,
listen to the rasping
I hear forming in her lungs,
and hope that I still have time
to figure out how to share a secret
with someone who has never really
heard my voice.

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