Poem: holy water

Having to get out of bed
brings me to my knees–
but only metaphorically,
because physically,
I have not left
my bed in days.

You consumed me
like a parasite
grazing upon its host.
I am the empty vessel
for which the ghost
of your soul resides.

I wither in self-pity
and drown in
a grief I did not
know was possible.

I am hollow,
carved out with curettes,
sutured, and sent home,
but devoid of ever
feeling home again.

Novel Excerpt: Here She Lies (Part 3)

For part one, go here. Or part two, go here.

The car slows to a stop. Milly looks out and sees a long cement gate that encloses a green park, filled with tall cypress trees that cast shadows across the entire park. She takes a few deep breaths and exits the car. The hot summer sun pricks at her skin, and a stale breeze tugs at her cloths and hair.
She looks at the oxidized metal sign:
Hillside Memorial Park.
Open six AM to dusk.
A small breeze catches Milly’s hair as she lays out a white sheet from her bedroom to sit on. Scattered around, tall cypress and eucalyptus trees tower above her head, and although it’s midday, a shadow falls across the large park. Streams of light glow from the tops of the soaring trees and shoot to the ground like stars falling across the sky. Some of the rays fall on Milly’s face. She takes in a deep breath to steady her breathing as she and Charlie sit down. To her, this is home and she can’t imagine going anywhere that might take her away.
Milly reaches over the cotton sheet into a pink Easter basket, pulling Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches out. She place one in front of herself and passes the other to Charlie, but doesn’t take a bite; rather, she looks at a tombstone in the lawn next to her.
Elaine Milly Ray
Beloved Wife and Mother
August 2nd, 1969 – November 1st, 1999
Milly tried to write a letter to her mother earlier in the day about last year, but it was too hard. Instead,she told her mother about what she and Charlie had done over the summer, even the impromptu road trip up the coast to San Francisco. At the very bottom of the letter, she wrote, “Here’s to my last year of Hell and another great year in Heaven for you. I’m going to make this one the best of all. God help me,” as a pit formed in the bottom of her stomach.
“Hey, Char?” she calls, handing the newest letter to her best friend.
Charlie reaches out and grasps the sealed letter, marked Mom’s Birthday 2007 in his hands.
“With the others, please? And did you bring 2004’s letter?”
“Yeah. Here.” After shoving the first letter in his pocket, Charlie hands Milly an old, folded piece of paper. She opens it slowly, cautiously, like the words on the page would fall off and spill onto the ground if she moves too quickly, and reads:
Dear Mom, 8/2/04
I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday and tell you how much I love you. I miss you so much. I’m doing alright. I’m going to be a freshman! I’m so nervous. Charlie says it’ll be fine, but he doesn’t know anything about high school. I still don’t have boobs yet. When did you get boobs? Jonah makes fun of me all the time… He’s lucky that I don’t make fun of him for having them. We still don’t get along. He still drinks, but I guess I’m not surprised anymore.
Today, Charlie surprised me and came over. His grandma drove us to your grave, and we had an old fashioned picnic. It was really nice to talk to you again. I think Charlie misses you just as much I do. We’re gonna visit you every year on your birthday. I love you, Mom. See you next year.
Love,
Milli-pede
“Will you ever want the rest of those letters back?” Charlie asks. Milly folds the letter and thinks.
Elaine died of cancer sixteen days before Milly’s tenth birthday. Before she died, she gave Milly a box of letters: one written for every birthday Elaine would miss (until Milly was the age of twenty-five), a letter for all nine of her previous birthdays, and letters marking important moments in Milly’s life—first boyfriend, becoming a woman, high school, college, getting married, first baby, etc.
Milly tried to read all the letters right after her mom died, but most of the letters were complicated and hard for her to understand. It made her more angry and confused. Her mom was gone and she would have to face the fact that she was alone with Jonah. He tried to throw away the letters at one point, when Milly was eleven. Ever since then, she’s kept all of the letters she was given or wrote to her mother with Charlie.
“You ask me that every year,” she laughs.
“I’m just waiting for the day you want them back.”
“That won’t be for a long time,” she says.

Poem: Drag Night

The mahogany double doors open

and the woman submerges into a cloud of smoke.

The fog machine ushers her into the room

and into a crowd of cheering people.

A large woman, dressed in purple sequence,

clad in fish net tights and eyeshadow

sprawling from ridge to lid, descends the stairs.

The woman at the door ignores the parade.

High on tip-toes, brown sandals pushing up, 

she scans the bar, examines the booths, and

searches the crowd for the face she seeks.  

With a disgruntled breath, into the crowd

she plunges, deeper and deeper through the

veins of bodies standing shoulder to shoulder.

Screams of laughter erupt and the dancer

mimes the words of “Like a Virgin.”   

But the woman in jeans and the yellow blouse

pays no mind and hinders no search.

She escapes the sweating merriment

and to her relief, a familiar face sits.

At the bar, eyes glued to the performer

as she parades around the bar

and serenades her loyal onlookers

sits a man, beer in hand.  

The woman steps toward him,

placing her arm on his shoulder.

He looks up at her and she smiles. 

“Funny bumping into you.”

He pulls out a seat for her.

“You’re late.” His arms rests on her knee. 

“Looks to me like the show just began.”

“So it has.”

Poem: Taxman Jones

The Corolla screams as it slows to a stop, 

Resting at a weeping brick building.

Both the car and the walls are gray and peeling.

A flick of the wrist and the engine shimmies

And clunk, clunk, clunks.

Silence.

My frown deepens to the point

It hurts.

My hand caresses the handle and

SLAM.

My shoulder pops and the door pops,

And out I tumble into the wind.

I dust off my hands,

Tattooed with gravel,

To pull the thin crocheted sweater closer,

Closer,

Closer.

Mom made it white.

Time made it yellow.

My feet push on.

Left, left,

Left, right, left.

I stop at the front door.

At attention.

Jingling keys sing the national anthem,

Before I shove them into a weather-worn hole.

The shops walls are the patches of a quilt,

Stuffed with graffiti.

The “Closed” sign glares at me.

“You’re late,” it yells. I ignore it.

Again. Instead,

I scan the horizons for any sign of life,

But it’s gray up there.

Dark, then light, then dark.

No blue today.

Or yesterday.

Or the day before.

No blue tomorrow either.

My eye catches on the vinyl sign hanging above the shop doors.

It should read my name and profession.

It should trumpet in each day, and herald my exit,

but

instead, it dangles from a roof,

wishing it adorned another.

“Axman Jones,” it says.

An angry client tore out the “T,”

And not even a Sharpie could

Save the sign, much less

The business.

At ease solider.

My shoulders sink,

Deeper and deeper until I am nothing but a shell.

“Would Jesus even hang out with me?”

I scoff and straighten my back.

Jesus picked better sinners.  

The wind of ice and fury sings “Taps” in the distance.

I open the door and lock it tight behind me.

Poem: Peace Before the Heartbreak

When a song has the power to transport you
to a moment–A moment that brought you
so much joy–even though now it breaks your heart.

But even in the breaking,
there is peace that it once happened.
That simple contentment.
That simple joy.
That simple thankfulness.

That a moment could have existed at all.

And for that small second, you get to go back
and relive it again as if nothing has changed

As if all were right with the world again.
As if he still loved you.
As if you could turn over in bed and hold his hand

Or press your head into his shoulder
and smell his deodorant–degree for men.
Or smell the dust in his hair.

As if you could snooze the alarm
and sleep next to him just “five more minutes”
until those five minutes turn into an hour and suddenly
you’re late for class.
But who cares
When the entire world is right beside you.

But the song ends, and you lie in the middle
of the bed in the dark of your apartment.

So you start it over.

As if the feeling will last just a little longer.
As if the memory will come back as strong and alive.

The plucking guitar seduces your memories,

and back you go to the old apartment,
to the right side of the bed,
and to the sigh of relief
When you turn over

And he’s there.

Poem: Milly is Not My Name

I will be Agate, with her turquoise glasses
and smile like a broken picket fence that needs new paint,
whose mom sends her to school with cosmic brownies
and an apple cherry juice box. She arrives for the day
wrapped in Daddy’s arms and eagerly waits to go Home again.

I will be Carley, with her shiny hair
and bright pink fingernails, glittering in the sunshine
of our school playground. She is Master of the Monkey Bars;
boys try to look up her dress as she swings across,
and I don’t know why, but they keep on looking anyway.

I will be Rachel, with her Ken doll and Barbies
and green backpack so bright it hurts my eyes to look at.
She plays with Mabel, Gwen, and Denise, and sometimes,
their dolls do naughty things when Teacher isn’t looking.
She knows where babies come from, and everyone asks to sit by her.

But I am me, with my matted red hair
and a sunset, fading into dusk, streaked across my arms and legs.
I hide at the back of the class because Teacher won’t stop
asking about Daddy, and Carley wants to know why
my eye looks gross and why my lip is so fat, but I can’t tell her

And I am me, with my empty bedroom
and doll whose head is cracked like mine and whose arms and legs
skew apart and whose body is thin in the middle
where I hold onto her for dear life. I am the canvas of my daddy’s art,
but he only paints in amethyst, sapphire, and onyx.

I am his masterpiece, but I am so tired of being painted.