POET: Sierra DeMulder
PIECE: Mrs. Dahmer
Deviance and Social Control
The mother of the infamous serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, reflects on her son’s deviant behavior.

Key Lines/Phrases

Key Line/Phrase

“Even after I heard what they found in your refrigerator,
(two human heads and a heart in your freezer)
I could not bring myself to call you a monster.”

In this persona poem, Mrs. Dahmer searches for clues in Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood that may have contributed or at least given clues to his horrific actions. She must also face the stigma cast upon her family. While this type of deviance best demonstrates the effects of breaking taboos, DeMulder’s poem helps illustrate factors that contribute to both primary and secondary deviance.

Full Transcript of Poem

I caught you once,
killing a squirrel in our back yard with a rock.
Your 8-year-old body shivering, illuminated.
Through tears, you told me you loved it.
I assumed you meant the squirrel.

Even after I watched the news—
clips of a 10 gallon blue vat being carried out of your building,
your refrigerator sealed with police tape,
pictures of the boys you kissed too hard.
Even after I heard what they found in your refrigerator,
(two human heads and a heart in your freezer)
I could not bring myself to call you a monster.

Your father told the reporters
when I was pregnant with you, I experienced seizure-like fits,
foaming at the mouth. My swollen body would stiffen and
and my eyes would peel back like paint
as if I were trying to look at you.

The day your apartment building was gutted and paved over,
I began to obsess over your baby pictures, looking for anything
that could predict the way you learned to love seeing things inside out.
I held them close to my face as if some of the innocence could rub off.

Your brother legally changed his last name from Dahmer,
but I cannot erase the stretch marks. I still see your eyes in my mirror.
The scar where they pulled you like Persephone from my stomach.

There is no reminiscing here.
No one wants to hear how you were a wonderful child.
They only want to watch your car crash of a life on repeat.
Your adolescent obsession with road kill—
how you would bike for miles with a garbage bag filled with
whatever cadavers you found on the street.
How could I possibly not see this coming, they say.

Did I squeeze you too tightly when we crossed the street?
Child, when your father and I fought at night, did you mistake it for lovemaking?
Did I teach those fingers to pluck families apart like flower petals?
(I love you, I love you still.)
Darling, was it the sound of the dead dog’s bones as your father
dropped them one by one into the bucket that seduced you?
Did it sound too much like your pulse?
Was it the day I drove away from you—
freshly graduated from high school,
2 months premature of your first murder.
Did I put too many states between us?
Did you put your own heart in the freezer,
next to the thought of me?

Would Mary be forsaken if Jesus had not grown
to be the son god had intended to father?
If he did not wear a crown of thorns
but instead, wrapped it around his knuckles.
Will I be forgiven for the sins I did not commit, but created?

When you were small, i told you
you can grow up to be anything.


Follow-up Resources/Discussions

Discussion/Follow-up Questions

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Artist Comments

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