At fourteen, you were already a smooth con.
Taller than me by several inches,
you liked to brush against my shoulders
every chance you got.
You lied as easy as breathing,
(and you were in trouble most days),
all that stood between you and expulsion
was my big mouth and skinny white ass.
All I can do for you now is tell your story,
so I will.
It was a railroad school;
all you had to do is look a ways down the tracks
to see the train wrecks coming.
That's where they stick kids like you,
and they stick you with teachers like me;
first year teachers with good hearts,
but no experience with
junkies (like your dad)
whores (like your mom)
gangs (waiting for you outside the school house door)
abuse (all of your life)
poverty (the kind that only sees one way out).
I didn't have any books to give you
even if you could have read them.
I did my best,
but the whole system . . .
we were all just trying to get through each day
without getting eaten alive.
All I can do for you now is say I'm sorry,
so I will.
So, I was listening to the news yesterday,
and I heard that they found you dead in the middle of the street.
Seems you botched a home invasion, kiddo.
Damn you, you were only twenty-two years old.
Damn us all, you never had a prayer.
And, damn me for not knowing how to help you.
I'm sorry, baby.
I am so fucking sorry.
All of the above is true. It's not much of a poem, but I needed to write it. Thank you for reading it.
When meditation failed,
I ordered pizza.
it arrived in thirty minutes or less
(greasy as a Texas politician, but still hot,
so I double tipped),
and with half a bottle of passable wine and a paper plate
balanced atop the pizza box,
I made the pilgrimage to the living room
to reverently place my offering and myself
before my third eye.
A click brought me the world.
On CNN, an insurance agent struggles to remain upright in pounding surf
while he explains the delicious fine print
that will fuck policy holders
out of reimbursement for hurricane damage.
On channel 4, a voice over urges me
to ask my doctor if the latest antidepressant is right for me,
the screen filled with the image
of a woman weeping over her infant,
a heart monitor standing silent by the hospital crib.
On Channel 29, the Rams are playing,
and though the sound of swearing and shattering bones
drowns out the play by play,
I happily settle in for the evening
to enjoy a bit of circus with my bread.
There's only so much truth a girl can handle on a Thursday night.
Somewhere between broken-hearted and bitter,
there's an empty plain
where a body can find a cold beer
and an uneasy peace.
It's as quiet as a sleepless night,
a place to rub salt in the wound of your choosing
and ponder hard men and the harder truths they come bearing.
Naturally, I think about you.
Some lies are meant to be told and told well.
Some truths should never be spoken aloud.
Even in confession, I whisper and mumble you don't make me feel less alone
and try to snatch the words back,
but I can't,
and I'm tired of trying.
I just long to sink into this silent ground
and study my discontent until the edges blur.
Instead, I spread my expectations wide on a blanket
and let the sun leach their juices and steal their colors.
Then, I give them to the wind.
I have no use for them anymore.
Lace your fingers with mine
and walk with me.
It's just a little rain.
Let's match our footsteps
and nestle in each other's silence.
I have others for the words I say.
But, I have only you
for what I leave unsaid.
Lace your fingers with mine
and walk with me a while.
I was little more than a girl
when I started keeping company with death.
He didn't know me by name;
I was just a worker in his fields,
tending frail, palsied fruits
until the appointed times of each.
I never begrudged him his harvest.
I came to know his ways, though.
I could feel his footsteps along my spine,
catch the faintest drift of cinnamon and decay in the air,
and notice the exact moment when the birds
nesting in the north wing stairwell
hushed their song.
I know that he always takes in threes.
Six days ago, just after my first round,
he came for Mrs. Faulkner.
Hers was a quiet, pretty death.
Four days later, Mr. Layton clung to his final breath so fiercely
that I lost my usual indifference
and left work early to come home.