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her skin was white as snow
her hair black like raven, and eyes luminous black bear eyes, warm and round
she was so beautiful it made my heart swell

when i came near her, very near
my third eye tickled and i said to my brother’s girlfriend “i love you, mary”
and from then on, my forehead would tickle when i was near someone i loved

so it was easy to see that my robin hood brother and this fairy princess
were enchanted at 17

except when she missed her period
after that i don’t think any prince could wake her out of her fate, and before they knew it, the elders had handled the affairs and they were married

she found herself living in our cavernous house alone with me, a 7-year old
her teen husband worked nights at dr. pepper and mostly just stayed away doing not-good things
and my daddy worked late
poor adolescent snow white playing the mommy role way before her time

by now the spell wore off and i wasn’t in love with her anymore but i saw this commercial about deviled ham in a can, it looked so delicious i wanted it for dinner

she objected but i protested and she relented and made me a deviled ham sandwich on white bread

and there we sat
snow white, me, and her pregnant belly
but i couldn’t eat that salty pitch forked ham. it tasted nothing like the made-up story they sold
so i ran out to the woods and she screamed after me but not too hard because truly, how could she care?

she had enough on her mind with a ruined life and her apple so ripe

snow white in her cold-dream glass coffin wide awake
in a house so empty there weren’t even any ghosts for company

i left her there that night so long ago
my forlorn snow white
with nothing more than a tin of underwood deviled ham
and the bones of a poisoned castle.

 

snow_white_by_vocatur-d4p94gy

 

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i cut my finger today
and in the trickle read the story
of all these years the shame
of dirty blood
that could kill

blood to be careful with, not safe to give
blood that haunted me
but now
in the thread of red that snaked my finger
my heart raced
at the discovery of a new story

of clean blood wiped of affliction
sure blood, untainted
my crimson ribbon, life
like yours and yours

i could bleed again without reading contamination
red like the color of love
vibrant blood, as it should be
my blood married back to life

i cut my finger today
and with the blood that dripped
a long standing story
is now re-written

HCV

Rendering of the Hepatitis-C virus, courtesy of Bryan Brandenburg. See more of his work at: http://bryanbrandenburg.net/about-bryan-brandenburg/product-history/


*I recently completed a clinical trial to cure Hepatitis C. The last lab results show the virus undetectable.

In loving memory of two close friends who lost the fight to this disease,
David Anderson and Wayne Terry.

terse baptist woman
righteous in her morals
was never warm and fuzzy

but felt enough to buy the fabric and buttons
for this motherless girl
pin the pattern, sew the ruffles for the white apron
hem flowery dress and knit the raggedy ann hair

when she presented it to me i was astounded
this raggedy ann was perfect, how could i hold that?
she was pretty and whole
but paramount was her perfection, this doll was flawless

and i systematically tore her apart
i ripped her to shreds, a little each day
not in anger but like some homework assignment
methodically and without emotion

and i grieved the loss of this beautiful hand-made doll i would never have again
even as i pulled out the seams and ripped out her eyes
just like the vacancy i felt as i carved into our household furniture with the seam ripper from mama’s sewing box
dad, oblivious in his sorrow, did not notice the ugly furniture marks or did not care, shrouded in his own fog of grief, his wife gone forever

the next time she visited, i felt dirty shame when she saw the mutilated doll
she assured me of her condemnation
and i wondered too, why had i done that?

i never understood until now
why destruction is the partner
for the disturbed:
people who are broken
break the things they love

foggy, courtesy of Jerry Frost

foggy, courtesy of Jerry Frost

was when were high school
eyes still budding to open
feeling our way
precarious beginnings
universe green and bright in a town
too small and steely

he lived around the corner
played me records
and talked funny

my living room couch, late summer night
his sillouette
peter frampton hair
framed above me
his hard body, soft lips
waves like First Love unfolding

but father footsteps approach
so we unpeel joined skin quick-like
flash scene change, re-pose bodies
hide flushed cheeks rush heat
interrupts sweet fingers laced

so i walks you home so you could walks me back and you again
to stretch our goodbye like rock lizard heat
was alone except for spying crickets
on our midnight street still hot from the day

our chests beat a goodnight whisper
your shadow was to fade in wet texan air

was start of school year what drove me away
left you in night mist that stole you gone
cut short the wonder, the magic

and now my memory
stuck
with One honey taste
of our lost, soft
summer dream

Black is the New Red, courtesy of Boris Koodrin see his website at: http://boriskoodrin.com/index.html

Black is the New Red, courtesy of Boris Koodrin
see his website at: http://boriskoodrin.com/index.html

wide eyed boy had creamy brown skin

flashing white teeth and rich black hair

his mother had flowing carol king hair

hip hugger bell bottom blue jeans

and a paisley halter top

she was white and skinny as a rail

tracks on her arms like a trail

she explained to me the adventure of hunting for magic mushrooms

and i felt i had never met anyone more exotic in my life

almond eyed boy became helpless and protective all at once as she headed for the door

she laughed off his clinginess and ignored brown boy’s concerns

as she disappeared into the bedroom, and locked the door

i felt sad he had to worry instead of seeing he only had the coolest mom in the world

it was exciting to hang at this house and meet my brother’s girlfriend and her kid

learn how to hunt magic mushrooms and see how hippies really lived

i could be her, so bold and wild, this is who I could be!

big eyed boy with black lashes did not share my enthusiasm

i remember begging my brother to take us to a scary movie that day

my father had urged against it

horror movies would only make my night terrors worse he said

in the end they did take us to see that scary movie

which probably did give me bad dreams

a few weeks later i got a hard view through that tender boy’s eyes

his mother was dead

killed herself with a heroin overdose

my child eyes asked futile questions

my view was muddled, I had wanted to be like her, but now that seemed wrong

and i worried about what happened

to that clear eyed boy

"Beholder's I" by Boris Koodrin See his site at www.boriskoodrin.com

“Beholder’s I” by Boris Koodrin
See his site at http://www.boriskoodrin.com

just 16 and bumping along in the Moving Truck
texas to california
big brother
my jesus
drives
just him and me
sitting tall in my seat
soaking in this precious stretch of time
so hungry for my big brother

his rambling man lifestyle
left me home and lonely with just me and dad
waiting, always waiting for the surprise appearance, the coveted phone call
but now i have him all to myself on this long trip
my savior, my brother with his wild stories, adventurous life
dad follows behind with the dog in the chevy impala
right now my life cannot get any better

but my brother, my jesus
he needs a fix
confidently steers the truck with his knees
ties off his arm
my brother
jesus, he needed a fix

twisted turn of expectations
tests my faith
sucks my innocence out of the cab
into the landscape of nothing
but the passing desert

i keep look-out as best i can
try not to act shocked
show my savior i am cool
jesus, i can handle this

mentor, my brother
melting milky heroin in a spoon
squeezing my life smaller
as i watch the needle bloody his arm

holy time
i tell my faithful self
as he presents the Offering
“want to lick the spoon?”

i turn the scene into a touching moment of a home movie
a bowl of cake batter
so natural to lick that spoon
but the flavor is not creamed butter and sugar
bitter opiate pins my pupils, foams my mouth

hot Arizona hotel has a cool bathroom floor
dad assumes i am car sick
for hours i heave on that floor
and contemplate
my savior

Turmoil, courtesy of Ray Ferrer see more of Ray's outstanding work at http://urbanwallart.wordpress.com/

Turmoil, courtesy of Ray Ferrer
see more of Ray’s outstanding work at https://urbanwallart.see.me/

her name was Irma

y ella no habla engles

so when i got home from school i would prattle off my pigeon Spanish

and she would make me sopapillas

my brother would blow in with his junky girlfriend and a new puppy

they would fuck on my bed and it would smell like pussys and dicks

he would haul the stolen goods up to our apartment

a mounted deer head, a gold clock, bags of things and stow them

my dad would uselessly protest

Irma would disappear right when we needed her most

leaving us with piles of puppy poop and dirty sheets

then my brother would blow out again

and after dad and i were done cleaning the house

Irma would promptly return and make me sopapillas

pillows of fried flour tortillas sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon

i loved Irma.

courtesy of Ray Lobato, see more of Ray's art at raylobato.com

courtesy of Ray Lobato, see more of Ray’s art at raylobatoart.com

a lingering animosity toward you shadows me:
you left without saying goodbye

even so, I imagine it’s your voice I hear in my head so often
a mother’s advice
do this, don’t do that…do this NOW
I follow it
and it leads me right, mostly
that voice, however harsh

you weren’t the type to say goodbye
you were the type I ran from through the house
switch flailing
stripes on my bare legs
hiding under the desk from you
“come out now or it will be worse if I find you”

you were the prude with dial soap
washing my mouth out.
apparently to parade Barbee around naked
and make a ritual of her going to the toilet was obscene

my teeth clamped down on your fingers
and your eyes opened wide
those tense few moments gave us both time to think
I let go but was surprised that for some reason
you did not punish me for that bite, and you never put soap in my mouth again
a mother’s forgiveness

climbing up on the washing machine
to reach the top of the refrigerator
i broke that cruel switch into little pieces
but when the time came you weren’t foiled
just tore a fresh weapon from the tree outside the back door
a mother’s revenge

But I do remember the impromptu scavenger hunt you sent me on
so bored was I, no kids in the neighborhood
just you and me in that big house
you led me to the chocolate hidden in your night stand drawer
a mother’s kindness

I still have the quilt you made for me just before you left
which I will never use
for fear it will unravel and I’ll have nothing left of you

the song of your voice carrying on like it did
so authoritative and reasonable
i marveled at your wisdom, when your temper was calm

A strong memory of drawing pictures with you, so impressed with your ability
but tainted by you scolding me for trying to draw a picture of God
saying how it was a sin to draw an image of the Almighty
a mother’s shortcoming

But you were my advocate when my teenage brothers didn’t want to bring their kid sister along.
You dressed me in designer clothes.
You let me lick the cake batter off the spoon.
and probably in a million ways I don’t remember
you cared for me and loved me
But mostly I remember your harshness. A mother’s reprimand.

I remember the religious travelers crammed into your
bedroom as you paled
 “go play outside” you said, but it was so cold I squeezed into the dog kennel
new born puppies with barely open eyes
lapping my ankles
warming my lap
I recall you fed the runt with a baby bottle
a mother’s nurturing

it made you so mad when I burst into your room
so excited to tell you something,
interrupting the prayer circle of these strangers camped in our house
“she knows better” you announced
I didn’t.
I didn’t understand why you were in bed or why those strangers were there.
a mother’s deathbed

Your sister died the week before you did
and since you couldn’t get out of bed, you sent us to Oklahoma for the funeral.
I saw Mary Jane and Betsy crying so bitterly to lose their mother.

At your funeral, I tried so hard to cry. I knew it was wrong not to cry.
But I did cry. Later.
When your absence leached into the walls of our empty house 
leaving just me and my disillusioned father
who was nourished only with Beefeaters Gin…
 “Come back inside, daddy” but he was so far gone
staggering around our backyard talking to the spirits
he couldn’t hear or see me

everyone disappeared after you left except daddy and we were all alone.
On occasion we would see old family friends
and they would remark on how beautiful you were,
what a cultured and poised woman you were. 
How impeccably dressed.
I would look up at them in my stained dress and wonder
if I could ever be like you.

Occasionally I dream of who I would have become if you’d have stayed.
I know I would be a totally different me if you had.

And even though you did not say goodbye or leave me with memories of
“the perfect mother”
you did start talking to me shortly after you left
maybe that’s your way of not leaving me
why you never had to say good bye

and even though I’m still mad at you

I still listen.

Mary Dixon Henry 1920 to 1968

12 miles on a cracked rope road
from the trailer town
to mineral wells

12 miles between an 8-year old
and her halloween costume
so she might become cinderella,
a ballerina or casper the friendly ghost

he stiffly started the car up to make the 12 mile trip
clenching the steering wheel
with the grip of a victim
on a sinking life preserver

grim reaper seated between us
halloween candy anticipation for me
halloween hell, coming early for him

12 miles on a cracked rope road 

dry breath wind, pinching his chest
anvil paralyzing my daddy’s heart
nothing for miles but the arcing ribbon of the road
on that palo painted crust-scape,

save for the one gas station
where our car slammed stop and he fell out
jack-in-the-box-fast, rolled on the grainy ground
daddy, a shrunken jack-o-lantern

12 miles on a cracked rope road

halloween hell beginning in earnest now
helpless 8-year old
waiting for adults to come to the rescue
as his cardiac failure proceeded
reaper at my side

12 miles of cracked rope
choking my life
cinderella dream and trick-or-treat candy
dead and buried

everything White…
the crusted plateaus, the gas station and the White car I see racing to our rescue on the tight-rope road
Mr. White with a shock of White hair and the grip of Mr. Clean
sweeps my crumpled father into the backseat
me in the front, taking over
as grown-up as i can be, answering a stream of questions:
yes, this is my daddy, no, my mother died, no, there is no one to call, yes, we live in palo pinto, i don’t know, i don’t know

12 miles achieved, at the end of that cracked rope
the last image i see are the electrodes on his leaping body 
then the door closes

and i’m ushered to the nurse’s station
to doodle on a pad, swing my legs
and wait alone
for someone
anyone
to throw me a rope

raw from the tears
and dazed by the pure shock of it
i shuffled through his house
in the wake of his Final self-destruction
touching stuff he last touched

where the shot rang out
still ringing my ears

my tear-stripped cheeks
bearing my underseams
not much left of me without him

like seeing underwater
i was swimming surreal
everything still in its place
despite the implode

and here’s where he did it
in the shower, not much blood
just a tip of a bullet hole in the tile
neat and tidy

and the things he last touched
still in their places
except him
and i touch these things and wander around like i’m a ghost without him

shuffling like a zombie to his work table
where i see his hands
just as he left them
the curve of his fingers, one hand and then the other
my sweet brother’s hands
cast right there in lifeless form

crack in the throat of my heart
as i stand there
holding
his hollow hands

published in Loch Raven Review, Summer 2011
Honorable Mention, 2012 San Mateo County Fair

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