Knocked on Heavens door
Holding broken hearts
Upon my upturned palm
“I’d like a return please”
He was only 17.
Original published in Emry’s Journal via Medium
The slap of the screen door as it closes behind Babe causes her to start. Dammit if she hasn’t asked Earl a thousand times to fix it. What good is a tool box, she mutters, if you never use the tools?
She drags a broken chair out from under the awning of the mobile home, lining it up with a spray of sunlight on the ground. Groaning and panting as she bends at the hip, she collapses into the seat. It cracks slightly, but holds firm enough for her slight frame. She runs her nicotine stained hands through her unwashed hair then smells her fingers as if they might hold a clue. Dangling from her dry cracked lips is an unlit Marlboro, her last one. She hesitates to light it. She sighs at the thought of waiting. The urge to fill her lungs is strong. She can do it. Has before.
The only makeup she bothers with is rouge, a shade lighter than her dyed-red hair and applied as if she is scheduled to perform for Ringling Brothers later that afternoon. She wears only a robe, thin and patterned with faded daisies and adorned with oversized pockets and aluminum snaps. Her dollar store reading glasses hang between her slack breasts, folded and tucked in at the top snap. She’ll need them later to read the numbers, for now they’ll just collect the sweat already starting to bead.
Squinting, she raises her chin to the sun, making sure she is in just the right spot before releasing a heavy sigh that quickly turns into a hacking cough, reminding the dog in the yard to her presence. It’s a breezy 78 degrees. In the distance, she eyes a truck kicking up dust as it passes the Henson’s double wide and putters towards her single. She crosses, un-crosses and then crosses her legs. They are unshaven and sprinkled with scabbed over flea bites.
Ignore the fact that she wears only one slipper, as it serves no purpose anyway. It is filthy and worn. So much that the rubber on the heel is gone, revealing a sheer piece of pink terry cloth, or is it peach? Perhaps once. The mutt stole the other one moments after her butt hit the seat of the chair. He’s taken it to his favorite spot under the leafy oak where grass is only a memory. He chews it viciously, knowing it won’t fill his empty belly. Hope keeps him gnawing.
As the sun passes overhead, she moans and shifts her weight in the cracked plastic Adirondack, revealing sweat marks on her back and between her legs. She takes a slow pull from her warm beer and and waits anxiously for the lottery numbers to be announced on the AM Radio set up on a rusty card table behind her. She found the treasure in the garbage bin outside Len’s party store last fall and was elated at the discovery. The table, not the radio, that was grandad’s. It was the one thing he left her.
The radio announcer is talking about the jackpot. Biggest in Florida’s history. He’s urging listeners to call in. “What are you going to do with all that money? Call in and tell me by dialing 1–800–242-Z955.” If she had a phone she just might, then again, probably not. She shifts again and unconsciously rubs the pocket that conceals her two-dollar fortune.
The mailman pulls up to the box at the end of the drive and shoves in the mail. He departs without so much as a wave. In his wake, he leaves nothing but a dust cloud that makes it way straight for her. She contemplates getting up to retrieve the overdue notices she knows he left but her favorite song comes on, “Jolene” by Dolly Parton. As she begins to sing along, the dog’s ears perk up. He whines and relocates to his dog house in the back of the yard, although it’s more of a lean-to. The slipper continues to be his companion.
It’s her 63rd birthday.
Considering she has six kids and is on her third marriage she’s certain today has to be her lucky day. Rent on the mobile home is past due. Franny’s second baby is expected any day. Earl Jr. needs bail money, again, and her very last smoke dangles from her dry cracked lips, anxious to be kissed by fire.
Companion to the print journal est. 1984, Greenville, SC
The fires final ember
To get up, into the current
Abandoning its home
Desperate to matter
“I would like to be everyone, a cripple, a dying man, a whore, and then come back to write about my thoughts, my emotions, as that person. But I am not omniscient. I have to live my life, and it is the only one I’ll ever have.”
Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing-Sylvia Plath
Over glossy pupils
Dreading his return
Almost Livin’ Almost Dyin’
for all the dead
& hear my streets
with ragged beats & the beats
are too beat to live so the graves push out with
hands that cannot touch the makers of light & the
sun flames down through the roofs & the roots that slide
to one side & the whistlin’ fires of the cops & the cops
in the shops do what they gotta do & your body’s
on the fence & your ID’s in the air & the shots
get fired & the gas in the face & the tanks
on your blood & the innocence all around & the
spillin’ & the grillin’ & the grinnin’ & the game of Race
no one wanted & the same every day so U fire &
eat the smoke thru your long bones & the short mace
& the day? This last sweet Swisher day that turns to love
& no one knows how it came or what it is or what it says
or what it was or what for or from what gate
is it open is it locked can U pull it back to your life
filled with bitter juice & demon angel eyes even though
you pray & pray mama says you gotta sing she says
you got wings but from what skies from where could
they rise what are the things the no-things called love
how can its power be fixed or grasped so the beats
keep on blowin’ keep on flyin’ & the moon tracks your bed
where you are alone or maybe dead & the truth
carves you carves you & calls you back still alive
cry cry the candles by the last four trees still soaked
in Michael Brown red and Officer Liu red and
Officer Ramos red and Eric Garner whose
last words were not words they were just breath
askin’ for breath they were just burnin’ like me like
we are all still burnin’ can you hear me
can you can you feel me swaggin’ tall & driving low &
talkin’ fine & hollerin’ from my corner crime & fryin’
against the wall
almost livin’ almost dyin’
almost livin’ almost dyin’
Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.