WaitingWaitingWaiting4 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
Pale willow girls wait by the river, brides of the water,
Guppies swim through their veins, silver darts of bright pain.
Their names are hieroglyphs of mist, frost and rain.
They walk barefoot in the snow, leaving tracks so they know the way back,
A tracery of breadcrumbs that the ravens will never eat.
Twelve princesses slip underground,
Dance in slippers of tattered frayed silk,
Corkscrews of ribbon, stiff with blood and melted tallow.
They inject themselves with music until their eyes hum like bumble bees.
Then they sleepwalk through the day in a haze of yearning
For fierce wet stone beneath their frenzy of feet, of bones.
When they kiss they taste blood.
They taste honeyed tears.
The brides walk by blank storefronts, by scraps of words,
"Joe's Dry Cleaners", "Nick loves Alicia", "Please, oh please".
The town huddles waiting for checks, food stamps and jobs,
In a boarded up movie palace, the wood charred by some great fire
Black as the ravens that feed Elijah rice,
Red DirtRed DirtRed Dirt3 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
I eat only because my body demands it.
In the South pregnant mothers eat red dirt
because it gives them what they crave. Their bellies are full moons,
their eyes constellations of what their baby will be.
Forget tossed stones or chicken entrails,
the lines of a palm already scarred
by machinery bits, a barbed wire chicken fence.
I already know what my future will be.
I was given paradise but it did not want me.
They told me if you are not strong enough this paradise will scar you
and it has. I was meant to be pregnant at the age of 16
and believe this child will be different from me.
But I escaped, relentless, demanding. "Do not give into it."
But paradise rejected me.
I am now too slovenly, scared and desperate.
I want to bite myself, taste red blood,
red clay until it consumes me. I belong to it.
I want the red clay until it exhausts me and whatever I may give birth to.
My scars like constellations have told me we are not worthy.
PostcardsPostcardsPostcards3 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
In the parking lot, my brother shoots plastic arrows
at our station wagon, sleeping bags piled in the back.
"Can we have a pool shaped like a bass guitar,"
he asks, "when we get to California?" I float gum wrapper boats
in the shimmering heat mirage, my knees barnacled
with scabs and mosquito bites. As we drive, we count road kills,
eighteen wheelers and truck stops named after some guy.
You can drink it," Mom says cutting open a barrel cactus.
"Even if you get lost, you'll never die."
She taped Dad's latest postcard to the dashboard.
"Found work. I love you all. Come." We have postcards
from almost every state: amarillos from Louisiana,
pine flats from Arkansas, a Texas gas station with pipestem hoses.
Dad once worked in a diner, brought home day old cherry pie,
placemats I could draw on. When he kissed me goodnight,
I could hear jukebox songs. "Be my baby, do wah."
Mom stoops beside me, touches my spearmint boat with a bitten nail.
"Where is this one going?"
ExhaustionExhaustionExhaustion3 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
I wake, swollen with noon heat.
Half dressed, I stumble,
elbows and toes catching
on the clawed feet of chairs,
the blunt holes of open cupboards.
I sometimes forget my name.
In the kitchen, I pepper the rice
instead of salt. Black flecks surface
in the boiling water,
sea turtles migrating.
If I knew where you went,
I would follow. But all you left behind
was an old sweater, an empty notebook,
complete and infinite
as the space around a closed fist.
RememberingRememberingRemembering3 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
My brother said he slept with me (unholy congress),
a bramble brier of limbs, cocks and mouths.
They never said, oh so poor sleeping beauty’s wall
was pocked with uncoupled blasphemous poppies.
But I was a strumpet, the number of how many I slept with
could be be found if you tore through a cereal box.
His first wife sang Hail Marys when hearing of my lovers,
labyrinthine mazes of prayers. When my husband danced with me.
the Pavan, Lord Zouch’s Maske. We all wore delicious masks,
fingers touching then other things touched, fevered, liquid.
But that was a long, long time, things are clove breaths,
they are endlessly muttered prayers, they are my brother standing.
The blade is waiting for both of us (but he is innocent).
I am not but I was not taught to be innocent.
So I remember a mouth singing unholy psalms into my mouth.
MoonMoonMoon3 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
You left the knife on the drainboard,
bits of lettuce scattered like green rice.
We should get married, you tell me,
this house tight as a ring around us.
In every room, sleep waits for me.
Sometimes I wake sprawled on the wooden floor
not remembering that I fell.
Things blur, the copper pans
hanging on the wall swell in tight glowing bellies
woven rugs flow like rivers.
At night, your face flowers into an open moon,
filling our bed with light
There is no place left to hide.
Gus Number FiveGus Number FiveGus Number Five3 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
Jenna and Cindy filled their mouths with watermelon seeds, spitting them fast and hard until the air swarmed with seeds like shiny black dive-bombing gnats. “My seeds are winning,” twelve year old Cin yelled, her thin body tense and urgent with victory.
Jenna just kept spitting seeds. Eight years old, she already knew the seeds that flew the farthest would be Cin's no matter what.
Jenna puckered her mouth preparing for another losing bombardment. Suddenly she paused, lips plump and pouting as the mouth of a painted candy box cupid. Spitting the seeds into her palm, she stared at them for a moment, chewing the end of her pigtail. Then anxious with inspiration, she trotted into the house and minutes later reappeared hugging a fishbowl.
Carefully placing the bowl on the steps, she solemnly stared at the rattled goldfish who darted and wiggled his copper penny of a body. But when Jenna scattered her handful of watermelon seeds into the water, the goldfish paused
Missing GirlsMissing GirlsMissing Girls2 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
These snippets of girls, broadsheets, ballads,
a one paragraph whisper in a smudged newspaper
beneath an ad for a pizza, two for one.
But they are singular despite their raveled tangled names.
They are still awake, a litany of how young girls die.
Delia is gone, 14 years old, cinched and muzzled with rope,
two bullets. He was pardoned. She sleeps somewhere unknown.
Her bones whisper to the unknowns. At least Delia has a song.
Johnny Cash sang about her, the Man in Black.
Did they bury her in black, a thrift store school dress
with sweat stained underarms?
They tell Delia of truck stop stores gaudy with harsh beaten light,
racks of DVDs of Country’s greatest hits. A bus stop smelling of aged urine.
He promised he would leave his wife, girlfriend, so many words.
In a church bathroom. He had a kind face.
Grainy posters stapled to telephone poles, taped to smudged windows,
small store billboards cramped with fading pleas
amidst ads for babysitting, massage and guitar le
PluckingPluckingPlucking3 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
The table between us is a moon.
But the air is heavy. It lies
on us, muffled heat stilling
our breaths. You drop your fork,
but I still won't look at you. Even angels
would crawl if they were here.
"Why can't we be friends?"
I am thinking of a Flemish tapestry
I once saw in a white stone house,
walls dense and prickly with roses:
a line of stiff scarlet soldiers,
a rearing horse. The soldiers' thick fingers
grope at the blank cream cloth,
seeking purchase, gravity.
"What are you feeling?"
"I want to be a Flemish soldier,"
I tell you. Only my fingers
would constantly pluck at the expanse,
searching for the thread
that will unravel everything.
Not FleshNot FleshNot Flesh3 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
He wants to paint the virgin with skin blue
as a stillborn child, as blue as his wife's eyes.
Around their cot in the earth, their seven babes
wait in line for the opening of the sky.
Christ will come back, the priest intones. But this time,
he will not enter through a woman's flesh.
How would he paint a Christ not flesh
the painter wonders? Will he be stone, the bitten skin
of a plum, a fly's wings, threadbare flaxen cloth,
or a white canvas, so white there’s no air to breathe?
"Blue skin," the painter thinks,
Mary's face pooling beneath his brush.
An angel caresses his back until feathers fret
and knot beneath his skin, wanting out.
Rorschach's BlotRorschach's BlotRorschach's Blot3 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
Spiders and bears and misshapen trees,
when the swollen fruit drops it bursts into wren wings,
salamander tails shivering, the color of bruised plums.
It tastes so sweet, the tip of a beak.
With a straight pin, I peck at my arms,
a Pollock of blood, swarms of carnelian bees.
Sweet sweet stings. The poison sings.
They say hallucinations, the saints said visions.
"Ollie ollie oxen free," they call running through orchards,
the evening air loosening, a grace note of despair.
There was once an apple and it was bitten,
poor thing, all hell broke loose.
"Tell me what you see," he asks.
"White," I say, hospital sheets, sea gull fluff, porcelain doll faces, albino snails
You must not slash, you must not smash.
"White means purity," I say.
A good, good girl.
"No look at the dark thing."
But I am the dark thing.
Ollie Ollie oxen free.
Going, going, goneGoing, going, goneGoing, going, gone3 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
Three dollars, three fifty, four, the bristles
of Daddy's hairbrush, a handful of porcupine quills
rough as his unshaven face. In the trees,
moths roost like hens, their wings so still
as though Daddy had painted them.
The auctioneer, his black felt hat drooping
with the heat, strides across the snow of their wings,
Daddy's wristwatch nesting
in the palm of his hand, a raven. "Nevermore,"
Daddy would read to us. "Never again,"
Mama said bundling up Daddy's things with prickly twine.
He painted everything: house, barn, yearlings, tractor. "Sold,"
yells the auctioneer, a weathercock in his arms,
wings rough as the hides of Daddy's painted calves.
"Death is too smooth to paint," Daddy said.
But the faster he painted, the faster he died.
I cut the bristles from his brushes,
but he simply tied horsetail hairs to sticks.
Daddy even painted himself, skin translucent as moth wings.
I would sit on his lap. "Paint me, "I would ask,
patting his stubble until my hand stung.
Snake OilSnake OilSnake Oil3 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
Snake oil salesman, wagons gaudy with painted alligators and beaming women,
basking in health, cheeks red as the dying sun.
Their voices so sweet and slippery, heavy as honeysuckle
more potent than a preacher who could only promise you heaven.
The hushed crowds listen as pain is promised away,
just take this, take that and heave of living will melt like ice in your mouth.
Morphine, codeine and that old favorite alcohol.
Did the snake give Eve a grape instead of an apple.
But I would rather swallow their serenades of liquids so prettily packaged
then the hospital white sheets of pills, smaller then a rabbit’s eye.
If I must go down the rabbit’s hole, I want to be sung to.
I want taste, a burning throat
a chorus of men in dusty black suits with sun slitted eyes
telling me, “Take this my darling, you will live forever.”
ListsListsLists3 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
We bask, the sun weak as watered milk.
We create lists of things we remember,
stalling on artichokes, "green" long forgotten.
Basilisks have returned.
They gather around the bird feeders,
clumsy wings batting away sparrows and hummingbirds.
Even honey water excites them.
Pathetic really. Until you remember
it was us who brought them back with our lists.
There are still people
who think money is worth something.
Their lists fill with numbers, denominations.
Paper bills swarm thick as locusts.
They are rich
until our dragons eat them.
We all have our distractions.
We thought it would be more exciting,
the apocalypse. Instead this slow unraveling,
edges blurring into pinpricks of color
becomes old after a while.
Then we found we could create life.
But ours aren't stiff horror movie shambles.
We're more like dilettantes
copying Mona Lisas and dissolving water lilies
into grimy notebooks until no one can tell the difference.
We could have left with everyo
SlippingSlippingSlipping3 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
We camp out in a warehouse, eat three day old sandwiches,
the cheese stiff as cardboard, edges curling.
I start to rock, my hands curled into seed pods,
my mama's rocking chair, maize dust pillow.
She didn't really have a mother so she didn't know
what to do. You feed me chocolate
scraped from a shiny wrapper. "We will be different,"
you promise, pulling me into your lap, your body
falling into the rhythm of my rocking. Then you twist the foil
into a ring, silver as the chrome on my Daddy's T-bird.
He would polish it for hours, his cloth swooping like a bird. He flew away
when I was eight. I flew away when I was sixteen.
I left the same note. "Hi. Can't stay. Love." We had to slip away:
doorway, highway, mudflat thicketed with hubcaps
and tractor parts. "Stay," you whisper, silver
as Mama's painted nails, nicks of moon in the mirror
as she braided my hair, the strands slipping
from her fingers, always coming loose.
StoriesStoriesStories3 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Green pills, yellow pills, white pills. I wonder if they color code the pills to match the malady, green to soothe, yellow to wake, white to purify evil thoughts, black like ravens who peck and caw, Jezebel's bones, sodden red tulips, dogs lapping, tongues so black, black holes that like eating novas and girls like me that just happen to see the testifying of bricks. "Here someone was murdered", fickle neurons, scandalized hieroglyphs of blood, constellations of wolves such bloody tongued dogs.
"Open," the nurse says checking to see if I have swallowed her pills. I always do hoping such sacred behavior will loosen me of this place. If I promise to believe everything they say? But Nurse Mary is quite contrary, maiden's breath grows in her garden, clouds of crushed stems, pollen and powder. Maybe she sees the wolf. My flamingoes feel the unease of rhyming couplets and badly played croquet. What would Alice do? What would the Duchess do? What happened to Jack and Jill after they s
SkinISkin4 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
She wants her skin back, her wrinkled rough rhino skin,
not this skin so fragile and tight.
She wants transformation, water hardening into ice,
the pale brittle blue of a girl's mouth.
She is so cold, she wants grasses brimming with heat.
Her horn would shatter the frozen lake, shivering with cracks.
Another girl stares at her arm spider webbed with cuts,
the razor once moon cold now warm with blood,
pain so deeply buried blooms like red poppies.
She shudders. She is so cold. This blood did not taste like wine.
But it was warm on her tongue.
Even with twenty mattresses fat with swan feathers,
the princess felt the pebble, bruises surfacing
like a body when the ice finally melts.
So the princess drinks wine ember red until she free falls into sleep,
and dreams she is not a princess,
pain fading like cloth left too long in the light.
The frozen girl can now stare into the sun without blinking
They tethered her to the stake, piled dried branches around her,
no milky green sap. The su
FallingFallingFalling3 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
The body is weightless,
bones hollow as flutes.
They sing startled crescendos
beneath the world distant and harmless for once,
a map of what was.
"Here lie monsters," they warned.
Here lie creatures luminous, grotesque, incandescent
beyond anything you might know.
Round heelsRound heelsRound heels3 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
I am sullen and sleeping, green pills, poplar leaves.
When I walk, when I write, I stumble,
fingers slithering, glissading the walls,
a braille of trembling static.
I write when I am awake, three hours,
three weeks more they tell me.
Green sleeves, round heels, the essence of excess.
He wooed her extravagantly
until he snipped her neck,
the ax a crescent moon, swallowing the light, her blood.
I am lavish in my dreaming as he was in his wooing,
woodcock and sonnets, my heels blistered from so many hours in bed, knees bent.
I dream of that ax. It was a delicate neck they said
and so is mine.
RedemptionRedemptionRedemption4 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
Does God rage in my bones
or is it the flu?
a bed of nails, a dog of stones.
If I could press my spine flat against the nails,
curl like a badger between the paws of my cold dog,
perhaps I could read my visions
as a blind hand reads braille.
Is it my death or the world's that trails me,
a hound with a collar and dented tags.
I envy the saints,
their sores, boils and bloody palms.
Our pain is simply pain.
When I was four,
they sliced me open,
fixed my heart with knives.
There is no rapture in this,
only that I lived
and they saved,
hating my pain and feasting death.
"Jesus saves," I read the bumper sticker.
"For what," I asked my mother?
For red whips of licorice, caramels that bled?
"Jesus saves you,"
she answers absentmindedly.
Later that night I dreamt
I was packed in shoebox,
saved like a favored marble, a ribbon scrap.
Now you once love,
now only lover
CutCutCut4 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
When I cut myself, the angels watch.
I remind them of you, Mary
As a huddled girl, the stone behind your body,
A blank slate, waiting for words, the sharp prick of a dove's beak.
I cut lightly into my belly,
No scar, it seeps into me, becomes me.
My hands move slowly
As though they are being led by the letters, no closed circles,
Just lines and loops that lead out of themselves.
I do not want scars, just lines slender as snakes.
One of the angels wants to write her name,
Etched river reeds, a shattering of glass.
When I taste my blood, I taste of plums.
Mary, handmaiden, entrance to heaven,
I do not want heaven. I want snakes.
Copyright 12/2011 Kay Sundstrom
Margaret Pole 1541Margaret Pole 1541Margaret Pole 15413 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
She refused to lay her head on the executer’s block quietly.
Instead she ran screaming, clawing, knowing it would happen anyway.
It took 11 swings of the executor’s ax to behead her.
Her sin was to support Catherine first wife of Henry the 8th.
A silly thing to us, he simply wanted to marry another woman.
When I first died I was four, an operating table.
With the swiftness of a falling ax, they opened my rib cage,
felt my heart even though it lacked passion.
17 children went on the table that week, 11 died.
I lived in a jungle of IV tubes,
I lived in an oxygen tank, the luminous belly of a jelly fish, no working brain.
My mother noticed piles of rotting food trays outside my room.
Pears swollen until they might give birth.
Meat blossoming with green as though swarms of moths were slumbering on them.
The nurses didn’t bother to suit up to enter my private plastic bellows of a belly.
The air rippled around me with each breath as though the universe fe
ChildChildChild4 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
Ancilla, gillyflower, cathedral, chime and stone,
frightened child, you were only thirteen
when the dove pecked you,
so frightened, I dreamt my belly split open,
pain rang like bells in my my bones. Virgin, gillyflower,
my child was a gillyflower but she stung,
fragile as a wasp's wing she was,
she is, cathedral, chime and stone and my mother cried,
"How could you, how could you," all the way home
but there is no home, the river tastes
of mud and piss. Whore.
They called me whore, not virgin, not blessed.
I wanted, want to be stone,
and my mother wept.
Painter's WifeThe Painter's WifePainter's Wife4 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
Whenever she sees the virgin's face,
her mind smoothes itself into a blank.
Her husband thinks it's grief. Rather it is grave recognition.
She hears the hiss
and scratch of angel wings. When she sleeps,
the angels curl up against her like fevered damp children.
They never console her for the dead child
that floats in her belly. Whenever she forces it
out into rough being, it swims back
into her huddled emptiness again and again.
Her husband has painted a multitude of virgins
as though by painting a woman with a living child,
he can give her a living child.
But she knows better. The virgin bore a child
for those who want never to die. She bears the messiah
for those who want never to be born.