The Serial Killer Series: Poetry by Bryanna Licciardi


I’ve had an interesting time with my serial killer poems. My very first was about John Wayne Gacy, and it actually came from a dream I had of us talking at a party. I have this strange interest in serial killers and like to watch documentaries and read biographies about them all the time, which would explain having the dream. I brought it to my MFA workshop to see what people had to say, because it was so new for me. I knew I was on to something when the workshop was so extreme in its response. I thought, Why do people react this way to just the idea of someone society has deemed a monster being put in a normal situation? Why not explore this feeling further? When I’ve read them at readings, I’ve had a suprising number of people approach me after and tell me, “I thought I was the only one!” Some have even had stories about knowing a killer in their past.

I guess the word that inspires this series is uncomfortable. How to put myself in seemingly comfortable settings with uncomfortable characters, because I think readers learn something when they get dislodged from their comfort zone. I think that’s what poetry should be about.

Jeffrey Dahmer Invites Me to a Dinner Party

He would then engage in sex acts with the corpses before dismembering them
and disposing of them, often keeping their genitals or skulls as souvenirs.
-From a biography of the infamous serial killer

I’m not even born yet, but it’d be rude to decline,
so I show up with cookies covered in saranwrap.
They’re store-bought but it’s always polite to lie

about these things. His grandmother greets me
and lets me in. As we walk through the house,
we chat about the chocolate factory down the street,

how we both love chocolate. Though I’m hypoglycemic
and can’t eat it without passing out, one never disagrees
with a host. We walk to the dining room where Jeffrey is

setting on the table what he calls his famous stew
and before I can ask why it’s famous, he’s back
to the kitchen. I sit and look around the room.

His grandmother joins me, directs my attention to
the taxidermied heads displayed up on the walls.
She brags how Jeffrey picked each boy out himself,

says they paid extra to have the best guy in town,
because taxidermy is both a science and an art.
I tell her the word comes from Greek meaning

“movement” and “skin” because that’s all I know
about taxidermy, but she doesn’t take her eyes
from the heads. I realize one may be a guy I know,

and am relieved to understand why
he never called me back. Now Jeffrey returns
with a fistful of knives. He lines them all up

on the table, and asks which one I prefer.
I dig into my purse, politely tell him
no thanks, I brought my own.


Someone Sets Me Up with Charles Manson
Charles Manson is notoriously connected to the brutal slayings of actress Sharon Tate and other Hollywood residents, but he was never actually found guilty of committing the murders himself.
-From a biography of infamous serial killer

But I get there to find Charles has sent two guys in his place. They eat like wolves and want me to pay because Charles told them I would, and I do. I ask if he’ll show up later, and they tell me, maybe, but he’s Manson, Son of Men—so it’s hard to say.  The taller guy puts his hand on my knee and winks. The other one, gnashing meat through his teeth when he smiles, has a southern accent and wants me to call him Cowboy. Eventually I make an excuse to leave, can’t recall why I even showed, but they follow into my car. I have to roll down the windows when they take off their shoes. Where can I drop you off, I say. What’s the rush, they want to know. Cowboy asks if I’d like to see their ranch and learn about the coming war and possibly bang The Man himself. I’ve finally discovered my sanity, so I tell them when pigs fly and the tall one says, Oh, they may not fly, but boy do we make them run.


The French Ripper Takes Me to a Hot Dog Stand
Considered the French’s version of Jack the Ripper, Joseph Vacher’s scarred face,
and white hand-sewn rabbit fur hat made for quite a spectacle once arrested, as did his
insanity plea at trial. He was executed in 1898 via guillotine for the murder of 11 people. 

When I tell him I’m a vegetarian, he laughs,
devours the dog in three bites, licks
the ketchup from between his fingers.
He says he’s come to me like Jesus,
like Joan of Arc, come to us all,
guiding his beloved flock
to the slaughterhouse. I ask
what his beheading was like,
and he gets serious, scratches at
the scar across his neck, claiming it was
the most honorable way to die.
Then why try to get out of it, I ask.
But Joseph stops me, plucks his furry hat
from his head, places it on mine.
Nearly as good, he says.
I pet it as we continue walking,
and I must admit that, once you get used to
the smell, and the stains,
it’s almost like wearing a crown.

Bryanna Licciardi’s work has appeared in such journals as BlazeVOX, Poetry Quarterly, Cleaver Magazine, Adirondack Review, 491 Magazine, and Dos Passos. She currently lives just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. You can visit her website at to read more about her and her publications.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.