Abecedarian in a Dive Bar

any-
body
can
dance

extroverts
frequently
gather at
honkytonks

introverts
just
know to
lie low,
mouse-like,
nibbling
on scraps of
possibility
questioning the
revelers who
swing
toward
utopia

vexed, the
wallflowers’ very
xylem
yearns to
zoom

Grandpa’s Dream

during the great depression
we climb a rotten maple

we shimmy up a rope
i glide back to the ground

while you sway, unafraid
in an army flight jacket

a single living sliver
supporting your branch

What Is A Weed? (For Aldo)

i’m not too keen on yardwork
but i am strong in my own way,
stubborn
mowing strips in my little lawn
with a silent manual mower
raking
the fallen leaves into large paper
bags that the city picks up on
tuesdays.
sometimes the older male neighbors
will give me advice for a purer lawn
mistaking
the unholy mob of broad-leafed plants
for something to be vanquished – oh no
not here!
how else could the barely blushing fleabane
eavesdrop, their heads resting on windowsills
watching
my hands as i set the table for dinner
laughing at the men who fear
us weeds?

The Art of Bathing (II of II)

venus, stepping forth from her porcelain shell

the cream and maroon tiles
of the mid-century bath
are lit by two candles

a great swelling
of peace fills her heart
hot rivulets of water

pour down her shoulders
soaking waves of wet
hair, cast to one side

one hand cupped
to her breastbone
her belly a rounded prayer

The Art of Bathing (I of II)

ophelia, drowning in a pond

afloat in a robins egg blue tub
in a 1970s cream colonial, spring sun
glints off cobalt and white tile

grief’s weight pulls her beneath
the warm soapy surface

a chicken thigh held high in one hand
fresh lemonade in the other
mouth agape, untasting

The Comeback Kid

there’s something deliciously liminal
about a retort on the cusp of articulation

a punch-drunk, cerebellum-numbing feeling
reeling from a hit, piecing your surroundings together

lighting you with a lit left hook when
it looked as though i was against the ropes

Grief and Other Eating Disorders

When I met L,  he told me I was trapped inside of a Raymond Carver story. I read them all but still couldn’t find a way out.  I clung to the belief that, by looking carefully enough, all of life’s answers were already written.   I didn’t know yet that it was up to me to write my own way out.  The same goes for you, in case you’re here searching.


Grief & Other Eating Disorders

I wake, grasping at the liminal sensation of running across ice-encrusted snow as a kid.  My brother and cousins sink into the soft powder.  I cross, joyfully unscathed.  Because I am small.  Because I never stop moving. 

I rise, alone in a king sized bed, barely indenting it.  The house is freezing. 

I slowly dress and drive the hilly, sleet covered streets to a bank appointment that I don’t remember making.  I prop myself up in a corner, and am startled by my reflection in the foyer glass.  A medical skeleton, gaping at the tellers’ assured, bright motions. Her own unsteady hands clutching a red folder marked “Finances”.  

“Hello!  How are you today?  I’m Lori, the loan officer.   We spoke on the phone.” She is brunette, her face seems kind and worried.  I shake her hand and consider the acceptable responses to stranger when you are starving yourself into madness.  I am invincible and utterly broken.  I am beyond all fucking reproach.   “I’m OK. A bit tired.”  

She leads me to a gray cubicle where I notice her name plate.  Thank God, because I’ve already forgotten. 

“I am not sure, yet, about anything, Mrs. Malone. I just want to understand my options.  If I stay, alone…”  

Lori smiles sympathetically as I pause to gather my thoughts.  She knows a lot about me already.  Small town divorce. 

“What would mortgage rates look like… adjusted with a single income?”

She hands me a packet of detailed paperwork and launches into an in-depth explanation of the process.  I am too distracted to follow her.  The horrible “ALONE” I mumbled earlier flits about the room and alights on her name plate, shimmering.   

M A L O N E

“You have amazing credit.  No matter what you decide to do, you are in a favorable financial situation.” 

I imagine myself mummifying in that ice-cold cream colonial on the hill.  Alone, sealed in and sacrificed in the fetal position.  Future bankers would find me in-situ with this impeccable fucking credit score fully intact.  And then what, Lori? Tears form in the corner of my eyes and I avoid her gaze.

Lori slides her card to me.  I enter her number into my iPhone as Lori “The Lone Loan” Malone.  I smirk, still teary-eyed.  This is the closest I’ve come to laughing in months. 

I shove the papers into my red “Finances” folder.  “Thank you!  Wonderful.  I’ll look at this and give you a call in a few weeks.  I need time to think this over.” 

Lori walks me to the door, a motherly hand on my shoulder. “I have no idea if I would be able to hold it together so well if I were in your situation.”

I throw up a little in my mouth.  It turns to a laugh, near the end, barely outstripping the pain.

img_5985

Ash Wednesday

priests used to awe me
thumbs dipped in black,
edging grainy smudged crosses
on each upturned forehead


d
r
d r a a g
a
g

our pew of tartan skirts
a chain of firing synapses
squeezing the hand of the
next girl in restive waves

the weight of mass lifts
we chase one another across
the frozen school parking lot
gathering about the washroom mirrors

plaid-frocked, self conscious
comparing ash marks
we all envy one smudge
an honest to goodness cross!

for what cannot be wrought
into suffering?

amen.