Sometimes (often)he was mean. ButMamma had a bottleof SleepRite, and wouldcrush the pills, then push the powderwith a knife into a glass a wine.No one grinned as he gulped;by then, it wasn’t even a mother-daughterjoke–just quiet. We would wash dishestogether in silence, then wait until8 to laugh as he snored. We read bookswith the TV on. Then had a full eighthours.Because we did what we had to do.
*From my poetry collection, All the Words in Between
The search party found her under
the crunch of autumn oak leaves. Rigor mortis
set in three weeks ago.
she was filed next to Bella in the Witch Elm—
and other mysteries. She’ll adjust to tight spaces
and purgatory silence.
After the autopsy,
even the anchor woman shrugged. Everyone
followed suit, except for the shadow who defaced
brick walls with accusations.
Three months later,
another college student left a party and never
made it across her front lawn. She too entered her
very own cold case as the town buzzed around
her bruises and hammer-stained flesh.
Finally, my daughter was left alone so I could console
her soundlessly. But sometimes,
neighbors remember, and frown:
“I’m so sorry…but you found closure, so it’s better now.”
(No. It’s not.)
*Based on a true story, told by my mother
Rumor has it, the story
went like this…
back in the ’60s, baby Isaac
had just turned three,
waving the classified section
of a discarded newspaper
like a flag, but giggling
way too close to the heater.
That’s all it takes
to turn ordinary days into tragedy.
Heater met paper;
paper, overheated, touched his shirt;
shirt mindlessly took in the flames
that liked his flesh, and everything
happened faster than his mother
Mamma was a teen
and can still remember
the novenas, the nurses exiting his room
with more wrinkles around the eyes.
It seemed to last forever until
doctors finally called him, the tiny body
covered in third degree burns, a miracle.
He even learned
to laugh again as family allowed
him to forget the trauma
until curiosity asked about
the wrinkled scars years later.
Little rumors and snapshots
from that phase still creep into
family stories. Like the way
my grandmother answered
the door as soon she spotted,
from the window,
a frantic mother carrying a smoldering
bundle down the road towards her.
Like the way everyone seemed
to grab rosaries at once
to quietly wait with a priest
who looked for the signal to perform
the final ritual (Sigh of relief
as he left for good).
Or–remember, rumors spread like fire–
how everyone whispered whenever
Mamma’s aunt left the room, wondering if it was
true: if a cousin really did find black candles
in the aunt’s dresser drawer that same morning,
if Isaac was still an accident, and no excuse
for why he got in the way of an intended target.
(But who was supposed to get the Devil’s luck?
Decades never found the truth).