Tag Archives: rough draft

What We Had to Do

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
Because we did what we had to do. 

That Song

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


*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.)

Me Vs. Me



Just when it looks like

I’m making progress,

 I fumble

an hour and             start to         sp  lit

                                                   (just like that)

and the other                                half

turns pretty                                      ugly

very fast.

Then it’s me vs.                          me

all weekend.

I want to sleep

away a bad day

or distract myself

when the solitude’s

quiet gets too loud      but first,

                                                                 I must listen

                                                                 to voices tear

                                                                 the skin on my face

                                                                 to shreds;

                                                                 I need to be reminded

                                                                 of who I am

                                                                 despite promotions.

This is when it’s time

For medication–anything

I can reach for

and after,

                                                                   it’s okay

                                                                   to be numb

                                                                  to the voice

                                                                  in the room.

Well, it’s morning

and I thought it over.

I’m not as bad

as the voices are


                                                 But this won’t last

                                                for long.


On my fathers side,
They ignored the elephant
On the living room couch
And called it toughness.
This was how they turned
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.




From my poetry collection, “All the Words in Between”


I’m molding into a storyteller with age,

but not without listening to how my mother

watched the world shift and write chapters.

She was working in an office for Bell South,

praying after the Challenger incident;

home, hearing what they found

under Gacy’s house; raising

me while I was too young to know what

was happening in Waco

or Oklahoma

or other places that took over the 90’s.




She can,

I can’t remember many events without

iPhones and constant coverage to flood us

with the new panic before we could digest the last.

Emotions seemed much more innocent,

too raw before millennial buzz gave us

numb stares, attention deficits.

It was life like the way her father, a farmer dressed

in rough hands and a stoic mouth, told her

the gravity of Kennedy with tears.



But generations after the last seem to start

all over again. Decades later, I was in school

in September, alerted by stern voices

and breaking news on every channel.



Like her,

I was young–“what’s a terrorist attack?”

and other questions.

Like her,

I wasn’t pushed into a new era

until I found her clutching Kleenex

in the living room.

Like her,

I’m a wide-eyed witness, doomed to

pass around vivid images when wisdom sets.