“Look into my eyes on purpose
& don’t repeat after me,”
she often said to the little girl
who didn’t move mountains
but built them,
even as she would someday
No two snowflakes are alike,
& she melted in her mothers arms—
not the designer label her mother had hoped for,
but the special label
that made her love her all the more.
motherhood was spent
smacking tags on clothes in the store
& plush animals at home,
on spinning pennies
& Minnie Mouse by the tail,
on “crashing the checkers”
of Connect Four,
only for the tray to be filled up again
with what she called mustards & ketchups.
Though such activities became
the payoff was in her daughter’s smile
that lit up her face like a gloriole
& with the laughter that filled a room
When Rachel Larsen was awakened
one smoggy, Christmas Eve night
by a conductor of an air & noise polluter,
she boarded The Solar Express—
renamed to keep the EPA off their backs.
When little Rachel reached Santytown,
having shared chai tea & gluten-free crumpets
with the other ragamuffins,
she saw all the toy factories
belching carbon dioxide like a charcoal grill;
she had a vision of the ice caps melting
at the The North Pole
so that The Solar Express
had to become a monorail
to navigate over the rising sea levels;
she envisioned Santa and his “little finds,”
moving from a cave to a Jetson-style house,
for the land below had become
too polluted to even harvest
all the plastic from the ocean
to recycle into plastic toys.
Santa Claus was the happily drunken,
who was productive but once a year,
his disgruntled elves having done all
the real work
but forced to stamp “Made in China”
on their handiwork.
When Santa found Rudolph,
the ne’er-do-weller North Pole pub dweller,
& praised the boozer for his snoot—
cherry-red from pint after pint of snootfuls—
the other reindeer,
willing to show him the 12 steps,
welcomed him with open antlers.
However, after Rudy continuously
made an icehole of himself
at every G-rated reindeer game—
trying to impress nonexistent female reindeer
(save Cupid, who had shot herself with an arrow
& was in love only with herself)—
the other reindeer,
fearful of an FWI (flying while intoxicated),
made sure that “Ruddy”
went down in history
by making him history.
When he was a young’un,
he’d watched his momma kiss Santy Claus;
when he grew up,
he’d watched her kill Santy Claus
for runnin’ Granny over with a John Deere,
marking Bama Montgomery’s last Christmas in Dixie.
This son of a sawed-off shotgun,
whose child support had come
in the form of recalled toys
that had washed up on Misfit Island—
which had been a “Dirty Santa” thing to do—
knew what he had to do.
But, rather than throw Momma from The Polar Express,
he threw her under the city bus
& staked his claim (courtesy of ancestry.com)
to the snow-white tundra & its 70, pointy-eared dwarves,
where he was stuck making crappy toys for Beall’s
& dreaming of a green Christmas.
He measured his time in semesters,
she, in trimesters.
His work was in bettering himself
even as hers was
in raising a child
who would want to do just that.
A Rock is a Hard Place to Sleep
She’d brought the Precious Moments snow globe
that played “In the Good Ole Summertime”
& the ladybug that turned the ceiling into a celestial night sky,
in her swirl-pink bathrobe,
scented with Dove,
so that when the sounds
of the Interstate overhead
vanished into thick air,
& the lights were turned out
in the shabby shelter
that was their 6-week purgatory
for being poor,
it would be just like all this homelessness business
was but a bad dream.
After she lost her son,
she tried to live everyday
with her daughter
to the fullest—
tried to capture every memory
in 1000’s of words
& in 100’s of pictures–
but found that in trying
to document it all
at such an incredible
level of intensity,
those moments of
she found that the future—
some of which may or may not
was stealing from the present
that she tried to hold on to too tightly,
for it so soon became the past.
Though her teachers taught her
to read & write,
it was her parents who taught her
to love it.
She had spent her childhood
pretending to be invisible,
only to learn in her adulthood
that the magic cloak of invisibility
was simply to be homeless.
Dad was a roughhouser,
Mom, a reader;
their child had the best of them,
for she could throw haymakers like a girl—
better than any gamer’s—
& could appreciate the stories
that packed sucker punches.
She’d imagined future memories
of taking care of them someday,
for they had taken care of her.
Though her child had made her
want to better herself,
Mom & Dad had made her
into a person who could.
Dad gave me strength,
but Mom gave me resilience
so that I was unbreakable.
As a little girl,
she had looked back
to see her mom,
looking back at her.
As an adult,
it was not behind her,
but above her,
that she looked—
whenever she shared a memory of her
with her own child,
whenever she spoke to the stone
that bore her name like a commandment,
whenever she made Dad proud.
If you weren’t really an adult
till your parents were gone,
she would be happy to be
a child forever.
When the fog settled over the Gulf Coast
for days that seemed to run together
like a week of binge-watching,
life was like walking through a dream
in varying filters.
It was that last day in the middle of the night—
before the fog lifted—
that the 3 boys came to her door.
Their frightened faces had been framed
in the frosted oval glass,
& their owlish eyes had looked sickly
in the illumination of the orange streetlight.
They said that the Londoners had taken their parents
& spoiled everything.
She chastised herself for opening the door
for what if they’d been followed?
And it was when she thought to look back
that she realized her family had disappeared
the second she had opened that door,
just as she was here
because someone else wasn’t.
When he was alive,
she slept to escape him through dreams,
but when he died,
he haunted those dreams,
& she became an insomniac who,
from sleep deprivation,
began to see his reflection in every window
& imagine his presence behind every door.
Famous writers haunted ghostwriters,
cases were tried by the judges perfected in Christ,
& the scientists who’d practiced the healing arts on Earth,
imparted their knowledge from Heaven—
even as those who’d passed on ages before
were able to witness the wonders of humankind
while living in the presence of the wonder of God.
Funerals were truly a celebration of one’s mortal life,
& grief became a thing of the past.
There was no moving on,
for to see & hear their loved ones was enough
to make up for the loss of the other 3 senses;
this new way of life & death helped keep their memory alive,
even as new conversations with the departed
were being had.
Where there had been faith,
there was now knowledge,
save for those who believed that man had never walked the moon.
He was a wood crafter,
she, a paper one.
For him, hell was a craft store,
she, a hardware,
but their shared love of dead trees
gave them the alone time they needed,
so that the time they did spend together
was spent not boring one another.
He was secular,
& when they became friends,
he showed her the humanity of humankind,
the divinity of the same.
He was into dinosaurs,
He tried to understand a world
that had ended,
she, a world that was only beginning.
When they found one another,
they lived not in the time prior
when they had moved in different orbits,
nor for the time to come
when they would be like
2 neutron stars,
colliding to form a kilanova,
but in the moment
that closed the space
Midnight & Noon,
being fraternal twins—
one ushering in the lunch hour,
the bewitching hour—
fought over who was 1200,
& who was 2400.
Five O’Clock always felt he had to be somewhere,
but that mysterious Eleventh Hour—
a lady on the go or a man on the run—
was always in a rush.
Venus’s marriage to Mars was rocky,
for he was gassy,
&, according to him,
she was icy,
but remembering little associations
helped her pass Astronomy class,
sliding into the seventieth percentile
with the knowledge
that the Sun was really big & hot
& Neptune was really far & cold.
Such a course of study changed her lexicon,
for when she gave birth to Halley,
she said it was like passing
a bowling ball the size of Jupiter.
Optimism & Pessimism walked into a bar,
where they came across Realism,
looking fine as dandelion wine.
They each brought her a drink—
Optimism’s glass being half-full,
Pessimism’s being half-empty.
Killing these 2 strange birds
with one shot,
she got what she wanted,
while leaving them wanting more.
Such was genuine Realism.
He was the 30-second man
when it came to the bedroom;
she, the 30-minute (or less) meal woman–
at least when it came to the kitchen
(so long as it was someone else’s).
Yet somehow the kids not only got conceived but fed,
for it was all in (a percentage of) a day’s work.
Life with him was a monologue–
& she was his captive,
if not captivated,
He was a one-man show,
playing the same role
year after year:
Death of a Mailman.
His lamentations were the worst kind of junk mail,
for they couldn’t just be tossed in the rubbish.
How she wanted to stamp him out
& send him packing via airmail.
Drinking was the only thing that kept her
from going postal,
but when she’d finally had her fill,
she left him for a man of much fewer words,
only for him to leave her,
having had his fill of listening to her tell him
about the windbag she’d ditched.
He’d dreamed of Jennie—
all those years in the camp.
Hoping to see her beautiful face again
was what had kept him going,
but when he was released
& saw that her outward appearance
he realized he hadn’t loved her,
but only the memory of the image
that had once made her career.
He’d been defrocked,
& she’d been disbarred.
They fell in love
as they’d fallen into other traps:
Through blood that flowed
away from the brain &
into their erogenous danger zones.
Their recklessness brought them crashing together,
even though he couldn’t save her
any more than she could defend him.
He was Urban Dictionary,
she, Merriam Webster.
She thought him crude,
he thought her a prude,
but when they had to work together
to meet a common goal,
they found a common interest:
He was meat & potatoes,
she, veggie burgers & sprouted grains.
Over dark chocolate mousse
with white chocolate antlers,
they fell for one another,
realizing that the savory had kept them alive,
even as the sweet had sealed the deal with a kiss.