Make It Count

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Every miserable day
and good one
near the water
or in a hospital
I try
I try
I try
My manta of gratitude
for functioning legs and serotonin uptake
quiet moments
and every last hug
for a soundtrack
and friendship
and good enough health
for those I love to make it to sunset
then sunrise
Repeat
Repeat
Repeat
Chaos and uncertainty
are too tight socks
pinching circulation
and leaving deep ruts
but limbs intact
if a tad blue
When I manage to roll them off
a more seamless state slowly returns
The heart relentless
doing its work
Pushing
Pushing
Pushing

NaPoWriMo Day 27

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Love Letters

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By the glow of fish tank, he’d sit and compose
a letter each night. Sweetened prose
and lines of verse, perfectly penned
in his neat script. He’d bare his heart
to the woman in gray yoga pants and purple
sports bra who ordered a grande, coconut milk,
mocha macchiato every Saturday morning at 9:37,
the black-haired cashier wearing the small, gold
cross at CVS pharmacy who worked
the evening shift on Tuesdays and Fridays,
his harried neighbor with three boys under
five who brought him a plate of cookies
every Christmas Eve, the regular driver
of bus route 32 who smiled and sang and laughed
as she shuttled her passengers down York Road,
his primary care physician who so intently asked him
about his health and well-being during his annual
physical, the transitioning woman at the bakery
with the red lips and lined eyes who knew
his regular order by heart, grabbing a bear claw
up with tongs and slipping it into the waxed bag
as soon as the bell tinkled when he pushed
through the door, and his blonde and tan cousin
from California that kissed him on the lips
when they were both twelve.

Seven letters a week, full of passion and promises,
to seven imagined loves. Seven leather portfolios and seven
pens. The words stringing out, stringing him to them.
Ink dark and indelible as any adorning marriage licenses
or restraining orders.

NaPoWriMo Day 26

Self Portrait

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Should I focus on my size?
My eyes or hair?
How I’m shaped like a rectangle?
Bones sturdy enough to pull a plough.
Strong, straight legs bookending knees of butter.
Two feet with ten toes and sufficient arches.
My glorious, murderer’s thumbs living in the shadow
of fingers with knuckles undamaged
despite a childhood cracking habit
that my mother swore would transform
my capable hands to gnarly claws.
According to a CT scan, all my organs rest rightly.
Nothing extra. Nothing missing. Nothing out-of-place.
My brain and spine are not so pristine. A tad lacy,
but not ostentatiously so.
In recent years, my hair and I have reached an accord.
I let the curls reign unchecked.
My skin is creamy and pink except where
slashed with scars, large and small.
I smile with my whole face.
The blue and sometimes green of my eyes
gets swallowed when I laugh.
What I like the most about myself is my shoulders.
They carry everything,
even when I’m certain they can’t.

NaPoWriMo Day 25

Miss Manners

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He apologized for not stopping over sooner,
as he’d promised, to drop off the medication.
Sitting down on the offered bar stool, he slumped
back against the kitchen wall. He just got out
of the hospital, he explained. Couple of back-
to-back heart attacks. Only fifty. And the pain,
he said, hadn’t been all that bad. Intense but brief.
Figured he’d just overdone it at the gym, upping
reps, weight, and time on the elliptical that morning.
He showed me his bruised arms, said it felt
like they shoved a nail through his right wrist.

It was dinnertime. I offered him a slice
of pizza we’d just pulled from the oven,
not wanting to be impolite. Grease glistening
on his lips, I saw myself stitching shut
his arteries with each bite. Another victim,
killed by kindness.

NaPoWriMo Day 24

The Seduction of Alternative Facts

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When truth provides
no real comfort,
hope wraps her
like sturdy arms,
murmurs alternative facts
with conviction in her ear.

Sometimes, she takes refuge there:
a home with unlocked doors,
words pretty as sunrise,
futures rich and enticing as crème brûlée.

NaPoWriMo Day 23

Best Left a Mystery

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Every neighbor was doing it. The noise
would be the first thing to give them away.
The banging sometimes went on for hours.
People seemed downright prideful about it,
like they were eager for everyone to know,
like they were showing off about it. When she was younger,
such things were simply not done. People tried to keep
all that hidden. Although, obviously, everyone
knew that it was happening in every home,
it was considered impolite, improper, vulgar,
and social inappropriate to make a public display of it all.
Well, at least it had become that way as civilization evolved.
We didn’t live in caves all crowded together anymore!
The mechanics of it all was now kept a much more private thing.
She preferred it that way. Sparks, heat, electricity,
it was necessary for human survival, exciting even,
if she was being totally honest with herself.
And, once or twice, she did catch herself wondering
about what might be happening in certain friends’ homes…
But really, it was none of her business, and she most definitely
felt very strongly she shouldn’t be forced to be confronted
with other folks choices in regards to those personal matters.
What they did within the confines of their own walls
was their own business and none of her concern.
So why, now, did they insist on covering their roofs
with those hideous solar panels and make her look at them
every time she gazed out her windows?! Solar energy, peeshaw!
Give her a good old basement boiler or furnace any day.

NaPoWriMo Day 22

$36.79

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She didn’t want to shop at Ross
for her prom dress, but since she
had only $35 to spend, she couldn’t
think of anywhere else to go
where she might procure the impossible
for nearly nothing.

Sure, she could have combed
consignment shops, if only
she didn’t wrangle
with a nearly debilitating case
of OCD. Nothing used. Hermetically
sealed everything a necessity for
her sanity.

The dress was simple. A pretty
sky-blue. Long, with a longer slit
up the right leg. The fabric was cheap,
but in dim light or from a distance,
it didn’t look all that bad. It fit her
perfectly.

She was pleased, but forgot about tax.
There were tense moments at the check out,
her digging through the “take a penny” cup
in hopes of scoring a total of a $1.79. Still
$1.07 short, the tears welled up in her eyes
she started to apologize,
and prepared herself to walk away.

Behind her, the woman bouncing a crying baby
on one hip while a sucker sucking toddler
tugged at the back of her tee-shirt whining
he had to pee now, sighed. The red-haired girl
whose blue eyes matched the blue dress,
reluctantly asked to cancel the sale and
for her $35 back. She was handed a bag
with a dress and receipt instead. The man
behind the register smiled.

She rushed away without thanking him,
embarrassed. On her walk to the bus stop,
she thought about her prom date,
his easy manner and odd choice
of instrument: a banjo. She imagined
dancing in her dress, her hair pulled up
in a soft bun, dangling, fake diamond earrings
catching the light.

The first bang brought her out of her reverie
and she noticed she’d almost reached
the corner and bus bench.

The next pop made her turn
and look for the source of the sound,
now coming in a steady,
staccato rhythm, bodies falling
across the street from her in sync
with each volley. She ran and crouched
behind the cement and wooden
bus bench with two others, first looking
to where the shots were coming from,
and then over to where the injured
were dropping.

Across the road, a baby wailed
next to the unmoving body of a tiny
boy. Near the children, a woman
lay on her back, her chest rising
and falling unsteadily,
a widening pool of blood gathering
on the ground beneath her tee-shirt.
Her arm moved slowly in the direction
of the crying child, reaching.

As shots rang out, the safely hidden girl stood
and moved quickly to the injured woman
and children. “Are you okay? Can you move?”
she asked, as she lifted the baby
into her arms, noticing the
lollipop still clutched in the lifeless boy’s
hand.

“Get down!” the woman groaned,
her face reshaped by pain and fear.
The girl laid down on the hot
asphalt between the woman
and the body of the boy. She placed
the baby near the mother’s outstretched
hand. As soon as their skin touched,
the child quieted.

The Ross bag still hooked
over her arm, the girl reached in
and pulled out the $36.79
sky-blue prom dress,
balled it up in her fist
and pressed it to the hole
in the young mother’s side.
She curled her body tightly
around the baby’s, red hair
falling over wet cheeks,
and waited for her future.

NaPoWriMo Day 21