Tag Archives: Creative

What We Had to Do

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Sometimes (often)
he was mean. But
Mamma had a bottle 
of SleepRite, and would 
crush the pills, then push the powder
with a knife into a glass a wine.
 
No one grinned as he gulped;
by then, it wasn’t even a mother-daughter
joke–just quiet. We would wash dishes
together in silence, then wait until 
8 to laugh as he snored. We read books
with the TV on. Then had a full eight
hours.
Because we did what we had to do. 
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This is Thirty

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This life isn’t 
a group of the ladies
in ridiculous stilettos 
on a pointless Tuesday
sipping Cosmopolitans 
while sharing the latest
philosophy about the hottest
one-night-stand-of-the-week,
holding the glass above
their head-held-high
because this is some kind
of fully-formed thirty,
this imaginary adulthood
they told us about in order
to soften the blow. 
 
…No. 
 
This is the girl who lost 
her debit card the same day
she realized she left her umbrella
at home, forever figuring out
the answer to what and why
in her favorite worn boots,
now until…whatever. 
This is
her friends
when they share the latest hook-up
life lesson with the sexual outcast
as she sips a beer, and takes 
notes about life and the curve balls
from those still finding pennies
between the couch cushions
with her because
wake up, this is the actual thirty. 

That Song

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Her song, smoked
and low
at the microphone
sent me into a mood. 
 
She sent me to
the dark corners of 
barrooms across
small town America,
 
where the ground 
at the entrance is damp,
inviting a chorus of critters
to translate for the others
 
that couldn’t make it. 
I want to meet you there,
the one where the cypress 
tree grows and mimics
 
shade for a room without
AC as the humidity 
and the background guitar
makes me feel easy, ready to
 
flirt with you like new lust. 
She’s convincing me, between
the lines, to love you like
a one night stand, even when
 
I’m not even into that sort 
of thing–but she sings
about burning the mattress
with someone she remembers,
 
and suddenly, during the third
beer, I understand why she thinks
we need to leave this place and find
some quiet, treat the loneliness
 
but not the disease. These days,
that’s all we can do. That’s why
she sings to us as wine creeps up
on me as I wait to go home, meet you there

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*From my poetry collection, All the Words in Between 

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The search party found her under

the crunch of autumn oak leaves. Rigor mortis

set in three weeks ago.

Quickly,

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.)

Stigma

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On my fathers side,
They ignored the elephant
On the living room couch
And called it toughness.
 
This was how they turned
Whisky
Percocet
Wife and kids
Into therapy. 
 
This was how my cousin
Turned a belt into a noose
In his closet.
 
This was how they called 
my aunt the “bitter black woman” 
stereotype and how they saw
her charge to  dim
A room.
 
And this is how the walls in the living
Room finally started
                      To cave in
from the extra weight
as they sat around and gossiped
about their self-aware sister. 
At least no Prozac among them.
I guess this was toughness.

Two Generations

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I was raised by Generation X,
emulating my older sisters
as they slouched and pouted
for the camera
after Kurt Cobain groaned,
“Whatever, never mind,”
to the masses.
I memorized their songs and attitude
while still learning
to read and write my name,
How lucky,
to grow up with lessons from
the last badass decade merged with mine
before I came into the real world,
into my own.

Black Candles

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*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

could cry.

 

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).