Poems

 

 

MY BEST FRIEND AND ME

 

At ten, too old

for dolls, we hide them.

The toy bin snaps

like a sacred book’s

binding. While our parents

sleep, we write ourselves

gods, and the simple plot

we began spins from us until

the characters start

to question the rules of

their universe; they do

terrible things; they horrify

and excite us until morning.

And I wish I

could end here, but the dolls

are already changing faces,

appearing in drawers. My mother’s

car doors are opening

by themselves, and the house

is cold, cold

as the halls between biology

and gym. We fail

our classes. Someone yells

lesbians; the word spits

like the fire pit where

my stepfather burns

dolls, poems, stories thick

with dialogue. He calls

the exorcist, whose business card

was given to him by Pentecostal

ministers. These same men

guide me through

a twelve-step recovery program

for the possessed. I renounce

yoga. My parents

divorce, and we move

to another town. My little cousin

dies, but I dream it first.

 

First appeared in Prairie Schooner.


 

CRONE-BALLAD

 

When my great-grandma’s husband drove by with another woman,

she punched him in the face.

When her daughter married a rapist,

she punched him in the face.

When her son slept with her other son’s wife, then slid

his motorcycle under a semi truck,

she wore a red dress to his wake.

 

There were blue birds, red birds, grey birds whose tails salt

           wouldn’t bind. There were great-great-grandmas, aunts, uncles,

           peering through glass.

 

When her husband kicked her pregnant belly,

she earthed the stillborn in a shoebox.

When the bruises spread like violets,

she earthed the stillborn in a shoebox.

After she named her Sharon Rose and dug an unmarked grave,

she washed the livings’ socks.

 

A loosed canary flies into the glass.

 

When her husband left his first family in Hungry, the woman

cursed his children to die young.

The woman he left in Hungry

cursed his children to die young.

In a tiny town in Michigan,

her boys dropped one by one.

 

Birds line up on the sill to peck the glass.

 

*

 

Great-grandma said:

Forty years of pot roasts, hams—

my lingerie hangs

in the closet, still tagged.

 

Each time we saw their stitched faces,

            we passed the opiates,

            flicked cigarettes into a vase.

 

In her dream, she told me:

It was red.

It was the red scarf.

It was the red scarf around the neck of

the pregnant girl

he left in Hungary.

 

            *

 

Great-grandma spits into her garden,

complains about a treaty her Blackfoot mother signed.

She hates crops. She hates farmers.

I stomp a colony of ants.

 

We practice

shooting cans. I shave my legs

with her purple razor. The wildflowers

bloom all at once.

 

Even in winter, I pump my legs

on the swing set, cold turning my chest

to a porcelain egg

where my great-grandma’s stillborn

scratches and turns.

 

There is one way to escape the dream: break your neck against the glass.

 

*

 

The last words of Mary Warren Toth Seibert Prochaska:

 

                                                                        Lousy cocksuckers.

 

She approaches death

like a wounded bear. Her red-tinted

hair heralds her combustion; her

heart is packed with gun powder, and she’ll drag

us down with her. Goddamn.

Every breath is a supernova, a blue

membrane sparking around her shadow’s

husk. She’s a triple-shift, three-husbands-

before-1960, tarot-reading, play-any-instrument-by-ear,

ham-fisted, ammonia-in-the-bathwater,

pick-your-teeth-up-off-the-floor bitch.

 

First appeared in Ninth Letter.


More poems available online:

 

“Cult of the Dryad” in LaFovea

“Love Poem to the Light Before Sleep” in Mayday Magazine

“My Best Friend and Me” Black Lawrence Press

“Homunculus” Black Lawrence Press

“First Arrow” and “Buck” Newfound Journal