Daryl Sznyter is the author of Synonyms for (OTHER) Bodies (NYQ Books). Her poetry has appeared in Diode, Poet Lore, Harpur Palate, The American Journal of Poetry, Best American Poetry Blog, and elsewhere.

She received her M.F.A. from The New School. She currently resides in northeastern Pennsylvania. When she’s not writing, Daryl likes to curl up with a good book, watch a spooky movie, strike a yoga pose, or dance the night (or day) away.


I seem sweet enough at first,
in a public place. My trouble
with eye contact and tendency
to blush makes me a safe option
for men like you. But get to know me
and you’ll wish you never did.
I love you so much that I want
to hurt you for not understanding.
When a habit of mine annoys you
And you let me know, expect me
to do it more often just to exasperate
you; just to inconvenience you
with a part of who I am. Often,
I already know what I’m doing
is annoying but it’s one of many
tics and I haven’t figured out how
to stop yet. When we’re at a restaurant
waiting for our food and you snip at me
because you’re hungry and it’s taking
too long, expect me to growl at you
and throw my drink in your face.
Expect me to make you uncomfortable
in front of our friends, those same
friends I’ll approach the next
day and ask what I can do better
to communicate with you. How do
non-monsters communicate?
How do you make a sane man
see a monster’s value?
How do you make them believe
your love is a constant
once they’ve already seen
what you’re like
when you’ve changed?


our next door neighbors were three boys, a girl, a dad, and a mom who was always nervous and had every reason to be. the father was always nice to us but when he looked at her, he was different—villainous—and she’d look the other way. sometimes we heard the crunch of fist against bone and then we wouldn’t see any of them for a few days. the mom was always calling off work but nobody ever fired her. she was a pharmacist so everyone pretended she was sick, thanking her for isolating to keep the town safe. we were extra careful not to need her until she’d return, looking like a vision in her white jacket and black sunglasses.

the boys were always getting into trouble, standing too close to railroad tracks, plucking legs off spiders with their mama’s tweezers. the little girl, the youngest of the bunch, would hold back tears until her brothers would notice and throw dirt in her face. she loved anything with legs, even spiders. even me. she tried to help me once, but she didn’t know how. it was winter andi was sick. she brought me hair gel that reeked of menthol, rubbing it in my fur until the hide beneath burned as though somebody lit a match. i caterwauled and she ran away. i didn’t know enough words to describe the pain, so i avoided her until she forgot the shape of my face.

the girl was sweet, but the mother was still my favorite. they called her Charlotte, a name so simple i wished it were mine. she’d crush pills with the bottom of her lipstick tube and mix the dust with packets of Crystal Light. her skull reminded me of a doll the eldest used to scare his sister: a shrunken head with fish cheeks and a wild mane of shock white hair. her teeth were nicotine yellow and always on display. nobody ever knew if she was smiling because she liked them or if her face was stuck like that. most people wished she would stop smiling, but not me. she never flinched when i smiled back. she was the bravest person i’d ever met.

when the father lost his job, he stopped leaving the house. he was an ugly man, so at first, we were glad, but then we felt bad for Charlotte and the kids. even the boys, who my mom called rotten little shits, didn’t deserve to be marooned with their papa’s wrath. one hot summer day, he tied the eldest to a tree like a dog and left him out there overnight without water or food. the town watched from its windows but no one dared to intervene. some thought the kid deserved it for being such a rotten little shit. others waited to see if he’d yowl at the moon. mama told me to steer clear of the neighbors’ drama, but i was that dangerous age where i thought i knew better than her.

in the morning, i approached him with water and bread crusts. i crawled up to him slowly to show i meant no harm. just when i thought we reached common ground, he called me a freak and bit me on the shoulder. his teeth changed my life forever. i’d never disobey my mother again. from that day on, we both hid from the neighbors. my moon-shaped scar still burns in certain weather.


Grendel was obsessed with the neighbors.
I told him to steer clear of their drama,
but he was of an age where he thought he knew better than me.
He’d follow them at a distance, playing games with himself in their shadows.
I tried everything in my power to curtail this behavior.
I’d ground him, but he’d be at it again as soon as he was free.
I’d send him to bed without dinner but gave up when I began to see his ribs.
Eventually, I taught him the art of camouflage.
I allowed the behavior to continue under the condition that he never approached them directly.
In retrospect, this was my fatal mistake.
My son’s empathy was no match for their rabid upbringing.
One day, the neighbor boy bit my baby on the shoulder.
Grendel’s body would grow around the teeth marks.
Their venom caused a rot we both felt but couldn’t see.