PluckingPluckingPlucking1 year 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.
Gus Number FiveGus Number FiveGus Number Five10 months 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
WaitingWaitingWaiting2 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,
ExhaustionExhaustionExhaustion1 year 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.
PostcardsPostcardsPostcards10 months 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?"
MoonMoonMoon1 year 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.
Rorschach's BlotRorschach's BlotRorschach's Blot1 year 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, gone1 year 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.
ListsListsLists1 year 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
SlippingSlippingSlipping11 months 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.
Not FleshNot FleshNot Flesh4 months 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.
BirthBirthBirth2 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
Because he swims in her womb,
the water she drinks blurs into wine.
Gnats land on her skin, black pearls,
they buzz like bells and she smiles.
He takes her pain. When she grinds wheat,
the pestle scrapes his skin raw.
Before he enters the world, he memorizes its pain.
But each time, the pain falls fresh,
an unbitten pear. Each bite startles him.
This is my flesh he thinks.
He wants to wake, a cool stone tomb,
the end, no more, please.
RememberingRememberingRemembering5 months 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.
ThirstThirstThirst1 year ago in Free Verse More Like This
You cut to tatters my red skirt, the red of Jezebel's blood.
You wear black pants, white shirts. You want to be a preacher,
God's words cleansing you. "How many angels
can dance on the head of a needle," I ask?
The dogs drink until their muzzles are painted tongues, arthuriums.
And somewhere else a king sends his beloved's husband
into a battle where he will die. Maybe the dogs will drink his blood
and transcend into feathers. His blood is innocent
caked with sand and grit, hard as a pea. The princess shivers sleepless,
a hard knot of something unknown prodding her spine.
My heart knots whenever I see you with love and sin.
When you hold me down, your fingers spread like twigs
from my shoulders. I fall, wanting you not God.
"They have no bodies," you whisper, "That is grace."
Redemption is a stone you suck on to forget the taste
of my skin, thirst. The princess wakes wanting red wine,
no unknowns, nothing that can touch and prick,
leaving a slow bleeding inside. Oblivion not abs
ChildChildChild2 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.
StoriesStoriesStories1 year 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
SleepSleepSleep1 year ago in Free Verse More Like This
For the first time, the angels sleep. They perch in trees
above the river where the women wash.
Drunk on the angels' mulled breath,
the women wrap wet linen
around their hips and spin, the angels' snores
buzzing in their bones. They pound the dirt flat,
the earth humming, a beehive beneath their feet.
Mary pirouettes, whirls and shimmers,
her unbound hair eddies through the air
as though she is still a virgin. The child crouches piggyback
on an angel's shoulder, his hands twined
in the angel's mane. None of the women see them,
and he laughs. Ollie, ollie, oxen free,
he's safe. The angels dream of clay pots,
hot ground meal and asses' milk. They dream of sleeping,
their bodies curled around each other like snuffling, drooping puppies.
Heaven has yet to exist.
SaintsSaintsSaints1 year ago in Free Verse More Like This
Saints didn't eat very much but then saints are Catholic,
puppets of the Pope, and we are Baptists dunked
in the water of his love. They baptize me when I'm twelve.
The congregation crowding the river, a carnival crowd
"Come see the human pincushion, the alligator boy, cursed
by the Babylonian priest of the moss." But this crowd
is still. They don't have to push to the front for tickets.
"Leanne have you found God," asks Preacher Dowlin?
"Yes, I found him." I answer. He waits for a moment, wanting
the usual firecracker holy babble to tumble from my throat
like an acrobat. "Look folks, no net" But I don't oblige him
so we stand there, people waiting for a bus. The holy roller express.
"And where did you find the Lord, Leanne?" "Hiding behind my parents' bed."
Whenever I want not to be here, I crawl into the space
between my parents' bed and the wall, wedge myself into that rectangle,
happy because no one looks for a person behind their parents' bed.
It was there I felt God in my
EndingEndingEnding1 year ago in Free Verse More Like This
I dream, the earth splitting like a cracked egg,
Light thinning like dye in water.
Air hardens until we burrow.
I wake wanting to know if we will fall.
An apocalypse is an ending
This is a becoming.
SkinISkin2 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
CutCutCut2 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
Snake OilSnake OilSnake Oil7 months 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.”
WoundsWoundsWounds2 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
I distrust open wounds,
too much of the pain is the surprise of blood,
the consciousness of fragility.
This wound you have given me is small,
it measures only finger to wrist.
Don't flatter yourself.
Others have opened me from throat to gut.
Margaret Pole 1541Margaret Pole 1541Margaret Pole 15415 months 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