Categories
Poetry

Poetry, Issue #74

SINKING SHIP

Did you receive my invitation

I picked you at random from a faded phone

book I found in my mother’s attic

next to some roller skates with a silver key

 

I flipped through and there you were

on page 522, my lucky number

and my sister’s name is Amy too

so it had to be you

 

did you know my neurons are fleeing 

like rats on a foundering ship

skittering all over my kitchen floor

crawling into cupboards of long-expired cans

 

my ship seems to be sinking pretty fast

can’t remember who the vice president is

or if I took my pink pills

I chose you, yes you, dear Amy to help me 

 

round up the roving neurons 

so I don’t forget my birthday, which I think

is in July, but could be in January

amazed we have made it this far

 

despite subpar parents

and groping uncles

don’t you agree, my dear Amy

there goes one right now

 

catch it! quick!

don’t step on it!

sorry, I thought you were still here

were you ever here?


LEANING

 

We lean on our stories the way 

we lean on our canes

 

for a sense of stability, 

to feel solid ground beneath our feet

 

who would we be without our stories 

that tell us who we are

 

    daughter of an alcoholic

    mother of a disabled child

    wife of a wonderful man who often

    forgets to lock the front door

 

are we living on light from dead stars

the present glued to the past

 

like black and white photos of people in fedoras 

and feathered boas staring from a family album

 

stories stitched to us like shadows 

stuck to our soles like chewing gum 

 

staying past their appointed season

smothering possibility

 

could we let stories go like helium balloons 

watching them float colorfully away

 

like a flock of Starlings

would we dare live new ones

 

while leaning on our CVS canes

and letting our lives flow?


THE BEST POSSIBLE YOU

 

Maybe you want to be more holy

or simply a bit more human

perhaps you need a little help

to become the best possible you

the one who walks her cranky neighbor’s Dachshund

and waters her drooping begonias

not the you who yells at the pale CVS clerk

for keeping you waiting five minutes

not the you who doesn’t answer the phone 

when her sister calls with yet another 

stream of complaints about her latest cold,

her dead-end kids and another burnt casserole

 

May I suggest sticking to the minor deities

the second string gods

waiting in the wings

for their moment of glory

growing grumpy over the years

their pearly gowns turning grey

but willing to work for minimum wage

since their inboxes are collecting cobwebs   

 

I personally pray to Eirene, the Greek goddess 

of patience, and Haurun, an Egyptian healing god 

setting out candles each morning

along with peanut butter crackers

which I end up eating myself

I never hear back, but I know they

are watching since I felt a sharp twinge 

when I clipped a car in Lucky’s parking lot 

and didn’t leave a note

not yet the best possible me

but working on it

buying more peanut butter every day


BIRD FOOD

 

All set to buy bird food today

up early, ready to roll

robins, finches, juncos circle empty feeders

after a steaming shower, I notice the yellow stickie 

on the bathroom mirror

    first socks, then shoes

        —Gary Larson

all my socks have holes in the heels

and my mother said always wear clean underwear

in case, never sure what in case was, but it must apply to socks too

surely no socks with holes, in case

check out Amazon where there are two hundred pages of possible socks

some out of stock, some over fifty dollars, all packed in passels 

of forty or fifty, all in a dizzying array of colors, but who wears

white or yellow or orange-striped socks

who wears SpongeBob or Cup of Noodle socks 

hours later, sore fingers and no socks

I google Petfood Express who will deliver 

a minimum order of five hundred dollars

I pull my rubber boots over my sockless feet

even though we are in a drought and people will stare

and quickly cross the street

my ten-year-old Honda car coughs and complains

and I curse and say a few feckless prayers

to a god who is no longer in my address book

and has long forgotten this little lamb

I try You Tube videos but can’t tell the difference between

a crankshaft and a piston and now the car is spewing smoke

and shooting sparks and the neighbor is complaining 

and I call my mechanic who has moved to Guatemala

and I order a peperoni pizza from Zachary’s

open a bottle of two buck chuck

and curl up on the couch to watch Planet Earth

noticing the sparrows look particularly thin


IN THE ICU

I woke in the dark. 

The sheets were scratchy and smelled of Clorox.

White curtains around my bed, like ghosts with thin hearts.

The woman next to me had a raspy cough. 

I was seventeen. 

Seventy-five pounds. 

My best.

I had overheard the doctor tell my father I might die. 

My heart muscle damaged. My heart rate too slow.

I didn’t care. I waited in the dark.

A nurse came and said I had to get out of bed.

I said I couldn’t. She insisted. I tried, then fainted.

So there. 

They let me stay in bed.

I refused food. Said I wasn’t hungry.

A familiar refrain.

I spoke a few words to the woman 

on the other side of the curtain. 

I told her my name. 

Hers sounded something like Emily

but her voice was weak, barely a whisper.

I missed my parents.

Why weren’t they there?

A commotion around the woman’s bed.

Doctors, nurses scurrying. Equipment rolling on 

squeaky wheels. Hushed voices like a library.

Or a chapel.

After, they opened the curtain between our beds.

Her bed was empty.

New sheets, plumped pillows.

And I knew that wasn’t what I wanted.

To be a ghost with a thin heart.

To disappear. Forever.

I eyed the scrambled eggs on my tray.

To this day I pray for the woman who saved my life.

I think her name was Emily.

By Claire Scott

Claire Scott is an award-winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, and Healing Muse, among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t.