2000s · Healing the Heart of Ophelia · Poetry

Concrete Decay

He was a redhead, freckle-faced boy.
His eyes were pale blue emptiness.
Fair skinned with blonde eyebrows
that got lost on his forehead.
He squinted all the time,
when he looked at you,
when he listened.
He was inarticulate and lacking grace.
He was a white-trash junkyard kid lost
in the wilderness of waist high grass and bamboo.
Lost in punk rock and Billy Idol snarls,
mohawks and dog-collar studs.
He bought me a Barbie tea set
and I felt like he loved me.
I forgave him for nailing My Little Pony
to the wall with a hairspray-spiked mane.
He came to my church with a motorcycle and tattoos,
after the Marines with spaceship conspiracies
and patent worthy inventions,
with his red hair and freckled-face
and his eyes as pale as ice.
I saw him on Christmas Eve
after his release with his crystal-meth mom.
He hugged me with his sweat-lined skin
at my job at the discount store.
I sunk away from him and his toxic residue.
He called me his little sister, but I only smiled
back a discount employee smile.
I stepped back from his oozing disease
that poisoned his reasoning,
that made him eat dogs
and break into automobiles for a place to sleep.
I stepped back from the dementia
he wore like a tattooed-robe on the day before Christmas.
When in backyards as big as city blocks,
the grass grew as tall as children,
we could hide in the long blades
like rabbits resting from the bloodhounds.
We built a world of bamboo forts and yachts
through the holes in the chain link fence.
We mastered block walls between junkyards
and guard dogs and newly constructed condominiums.
We lived adjacent to a graveyard of demolished houses.
We explored the wreckage like Greek ruins.
He was my brother then in our world of demolition.
Wild and without restraint,
the games were more than hide and seek.
Truth and dare. Did I dare?
Red-haired with children in a line,
waiting to prove bravery.
I am not that kind of sister.
I left the game.
I left the decay of concrete
and steel rusted through.
I left the forts and yachts
and green blades as tall as children,
as tall as rabbits.
I left my half brother
as I went back to my work
at the discount store on Christmas Eve.
I left the disease I saw seeping through his veins.
I am not his sister.
I went back to counting money
and separating credit slips and ATMs.
I am not his sister.

3-9-01
Included in a forthcoming project called Please Judge: Short Stories Based on the Songs of Roky Erickson.

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1990s · Poetry · Things Mean A Lot At The Time

The Disaster On Aisle 8

Some people are better off
never to be seen again
a thought I never thought
until tonight at the grocery store
I saw you by the bottled juices
with your blushing bride
in her child like naiveté
pushing a cart of potato buds
your voice got softer, almost queer
like she tamed your wilderness
I once knew as your wicked smile
I can’t help but wonder
how she erased the shadows
and smoothed out your wrinkles
I guess it’s only fair
you found your redemption at last
and me and my continuous journey
still hoping and getting burned
by similar lies like you
why did you have to meet my eyes
as if you still had the power
to climb in and destroy all mine
you go on now-I am passing by
we’ll never be mutual companions
not if I had my way

1990s · Poetry · Things Mean A Lot At The Time · Unanchored

Excuses

I just called to tell you
Sue’s transferring soon
To tell you she’ll be gone
I just called because I was hoping
You’d want me to come over
I just called to tell you
I made you a tape of songs
Because I don’t like you
And I am so moving on
I just called because
There is a movie I thought you’d like
It’s playing Friday night
“Sick and Twisted”- just your type
If you’re not busy, of course
I just called to tell you
I got better things to do
Because my hormones are going crazy
And my body is this mass of sweaty tension
I just called because I’m still alone
My best friend’s still not speaking to me
And I don’t know why
I just called because
You make me forget myself
Your one-sided conversations consume
the air so I no longer have to breath
I just called to tell you
I hate this war
I think we’re wrong
To tell you about the irony
I saw on the internet
“Make a pact against violence”
As we drop bombs on Kosovo
No double standard there
I just called to tell you
How drunk I wish I was
I watched Futurama again
Did you laugh at all the things
I imagine you’d be laughing at?
I just called- I know what you must think
Desperate girl- I must confess-
I was wrong about you & I being so right
I know you cannot be all the things I need
And that’s okay
I just called because I think
This friend thing is a joke
To tell you I don’t want you
Don’t want to touch your hands
Or your arms or your neck
I don’t want to kiss a man with facial hair
To feel your tongue behind those teeth- I don’t
I just called to say hi or hello
Or whatever excuse we use
To tell you about this new band
I heard his voice- makes me horny
To tell you I lied about how much I like yours
It’s only an eight-eight and a half at best
I just called because I was hoping
We’d really stay friends
And the time you need is finite
Enough to hang around for
To tell you how I prefer my space
Much better than change
Or laughing all the time or fucking
I prefer not to share or take any unnecessary risks
On a guy who can’t ever be serious
Or passionate or vulnerable
I just called to tell you
The checks in the mail
And how I wish I lived in New York
Where people run into people on the street
But we stay in out cars and shop
In grocery stores the size of malls
I just called to ask if you were bored
And wanted some company
I hate your answering machine

5-11-99
Originally published in Things Mean A Lot at the Time, 1999
Also appeared in Eunoia Review, 11-2-13

2010s · All the Tiny Anchors · Poetry · Unanchored

Hostage

At work he says to me, “How are you?
The last time we saw you, you ran out on
dinner. We all wondered where you went,
so we held your mom hostage.” He jokes,
all smiling up a storm like I’d have an
explanation for him like I forgot my oven
was on or left my wallet at home. But
I know I’ve seen him since that night
at a work meeting somewhere. That was
almost exactly five months ago and
I don’t bring those memories to work
with me. I don’t put the train-wreck
feeling on the player at school while
I got my authoritative hands on my hips.
So I change the subject. He doesn’t
know what an ass he’s being. Sometimes
they just don’t know.

4-19-13
Originally published in Eunoia Review, 11-4-13

2010s · Poetry

My Mother Taught Me

By direct or indirect means
things my mother taught me are

that makeup isn’t that important
that shoes can often constrain you
warning signs can be challenges
and walls are meant for climbing

that authority must be questioned
that no one is really in charge here
elevator buttons must all be pushed
and puddles must be stepped in

that fancy restaurants are too serious
that dancing and singing heals the soul
school and work will still be around
even when you take the days off

that clothes are mostly functional
that limits are mostly imaginary
how pets are better than some humans
and the end is just around this corner

that children can still teach us things
that the emperor isn’t wearing clothes
we make funny faces when we’re angry
and to keep only things that lighten the load

5-12-13

2010s · Poetry · Unanchored

Night Birds

At night, late past
twelve, I hear them.

Loud chirping birds
clear like night sounds

unmuddied by day
droning. They are

unapologetic. Sharp-
shouting, “I am heard!”

No contest for their
platform, no shove-

pushing, first-in-line
claim-staking. They

are joyous bastards.

4-5-13
Originally published in Eunoia Review, 11-3-13

2000s · Healing the Heart of Ophelia · Poetry · Unanchored

Pale Yellow

This is the one, I decide
The one I will speak to
I must be four years old
stamp says “Aug 78”
I am squatting low in a pool
of dirty water near dark green masses
maybe algae or fungi or moss
it’s all gross to me now
the background is thick brush
low hanging wall of green leaves
I am smiling
swishing the inches of water
below me- I am in the shade
lucky me
blonde haired child- little girl
nothing on, save pale yellow shorts
my knees pressing on my bare chest
flat thighs and calves
the kind of smile is
one I had on before the camera
centered my image
I was pleased to be there
fingers on the surface of
the unclean water
my rear hanging above the sandy bottom

It’s not going to happen now. I refuse to take
her from this moment. I will not speak to this
one. She is perfect and unsuspecting. She
trusts me as I am looking down at her from
my living room couch. She believes I will allow her
to stay there out of the August heat. With her pale
yellow hair past her shoulders, she has no cavities.
She has not yet lost her baby teeth. She is free in
the stream bed alone in nineteen seventy-eight. I
am not going to be the one to take her away from
her perfect moment in the shade out of summer
heat.

7-29-00
Originally published in Healing the Heart of Ophelia, 2001
Also appeared in poeticdiversity, 11-1-13