The House

this was the house that rape built,
on the land destitution claimed,
in the name of injustice.
foundation cracked
once in a lifetime.
housed guilt,
until rage came home.
slut shaming clothed
daughters backsides.
whispers in the face
of truth
you refused to hear
every girl was the bearer of
bad news.
hardships worn like heirlooms.
shutters closed tight,
even in daylight.
and this was the house rape built.

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Sheila from Pulaski.

give me the strength,
“just give all of you”
(to me)
implied,
walks away.
nothing lost in translation
she cocked her head,
he cocked his gun.
across the face,
back (then)
hands were for holding.
fold, she gives in.
maybe tomorrow
will be the next time
“no one leaves me”,
more like
“no woman would grieve me.”
chuckles, then pays tenfold
with the same hands
she used to hold.
apologetic,
clockwork, cycles.
drive by love affairs,
as her shift ends,
“this shit again?”
not for lack of trust,
“this is for your safety”
echoes, so she holds her tongue.
dropped weight,
stress made hunger
GO AWAY[!]
this SHE pleases him.
later she tries to rub one out,
jealously, seethes in him.
both boil, one brims.
hits her again,
-grows cold-
questions, with soft tones
?
no reply?
he cocks his head.
She cocks his gun.
DONE.

THIS old house

i keep pressing my face flat
against the surface,
might make it easier to see
things as they really are.

all i have to show
for LOVING you,
is an empty plot
with a pile of gravel
stacked to
the ceiling
of this old house
WE CALL A HOME.

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photo: taken in antique shop mirror, reflection with digital edit.

The Summer of 1985

The summer she turned sixteen was the summer I turned ten, I learned how to smoke opium by watching her through the blinds my thin fingers made as they covered my face at her command. We’d walk hand in hand around the block and she’d pull the denim cut-off jeans out of her crotch and tell me about how men my dad’s age are not as smart as they seem. I’d wrap myself in strands of her long hair and become tangled in delicate femininity as she sang song about tusks and love by some witch. She taught me important things like; how no really does mean no, and where to find Orion’s belt, and early one morning before dawn I found out all the secrets to putting a live worm on a fishing hook. The last night I was nine years old we shaved my legs with real razors she’d stolen from her dad and counted the stars until mom came home. I’d watched her write in cursive for hours, mostly journal entries reminding herself not to get pregnant in her teens, like her mother had. We made simple foods like toast with jelly and swam in the city pool, even on the cool and overcast afternoons. I counted the sun kisses that lined her little shoulders and snapped her bra strap wondering if I’d ever need one of those, I’d line my shoes up next to hers and pretend to yawn just so she’d hold me close. She’d warned me she’d be leaving in two years, college, maybe even four or more states away. She’d promised to still hang out with me on holidays and summer vacations when our families were on the coast. I’d told mom that if I’d had a sister I’d want it to be her, mom smiled and patted my head, telling me I was enough.

 

I knew something was wrong the first Monday in August when she wasn’t jumping on my bed by eight in the morning. I knew something was terribly wrong when my mom didn’t go to work for two whole days and kept the curtains drawn after three in the early afternoon. That Thursday as I was laying under the kitchen table counting the marshmallows from the cereal box I’d thrown, they told me. Deep in my little bones I’d already known. I pretended I wasn’t me, I waited until I believed my lies and then felt goose bumps cool my hot skin. I put my forehead on my bony arms which were folded on the floor in front of me, and I cried. I cried for three hours; I cried for myself and I cried for how sad it was that summer was full of lies. Most of them were hidden under bikini tops and stuffed into picnic baskets, some of them were sung on the back porch before mom and dad came home. Dad pulled me from under the table just before the local evening news came on, he used one hand to grab both of my scrawny ankles and pulled me across the tiled floor. He pulled me on to his lap and I knew, from my very short existence, that he would say nothing. I knew he’d brush my hair out of my face and wipe my tear stained cheeks, I also knew he’d only come to collect me because he didn’t want me hearing the news or around when the sheriff’s deputy and detective came to talk to mother again. I knew that I didn’t want to be in my room, the room with the window that overlooked forever, a forever she wouldn’t get to have.

 

Mom came around the corner looking white as a sheet ghost, in later years I would learn that she’d taken the brunt of our family’s guilt. Maybe she felt it was her duty, I think that’s where the cancer came from. She’d told the county and city officials that Bree Ann Lynn had left our house around nine, just after the street lights came on, she’d refused a ride and kissed my forehead before skipping down the front steps. She’d winked and I’d known she was going to meet a boy, but she never made it. She never made anything after that, anything but broken hearts and hands full of heavy heads. Kids weren’t allowed to walk anywhere after Bree Ann Lynn’s body was found, not even to the penny store to buy candy. I wasn’t even allowed to go outback, not even to sit on the front porch, we became prisoners. Prisoners of fear. Prisoners of hate and anger, confusion and unease. Prisoners of grief and sadness. I had sweet dreams of Bree at night, she’d sneak into my room through my locked window and pinch my toes from the side of my bed. She’d tell me not to worry, that it was okay she was dead. I stopped being sad and settled for being scared, it was easier than worried and Bree had told me that worrying gives you wrinkle lines and I couldn’t start fourth grade with those.

 

Mom took lots of time off of work and baked too many muffins and breads, she’d never quite get the ingredients right and then cry in the bathroom for hours. Dad said she’d be fine, she was just letting the regret out, I imagined her soft face looking older by the day.

 

The summer I turned ten was the same summer I grew up. The summer I turned ten was the summer I was placed in a cage. My mother died that summer, although her body didn’t catch up until my senior year of high school. That same summer my dad learned to talk and it was the last time I ever cried, that summer I broke my tear ducts and tore a hole in my heart so big it could’ve swallowed the world whole. It was the summer of 1985.

 

Captivated

Listens to one too many SXSW artists,
showcased, a life after a death.
Can’t afford the time it takes to let you go.
You give me butterflies,
captivated, caught hold.
Too young for mom jeans,
but too old for these feelings.
Crushed once,
used you as your own rebound.
Settled for the acoustic version
of anything, and drove North.
Autumn came too soon,
cancelled big plans to seduce you,
packed up my overdramatic stress,
rhymed something about being blue,
deduced to nothing.
But you give me butterflies,
captivated, caught hold.
Too old to follow fallacies,
but too young to stop feeding in to love’s antics.
Sold secrets over internets,
showcased, a life after a death.
Can’t afford the time it takes to fall in love,
but you’re the safest place to me.
I’m captivated, caught hold.
Butterflies, showcased a life after a death,
found too many flaws in the stories you never told.
Red flag, time to let go.
butterflies