Snuffcliff

I remember when I loved this drive

Back in august, muggy haze-

Confidence a flame in my chest,

uplifting my steps as I breezed

Into the office, my first salary set in a Catholic parish,

school building from long ago still holds holy charm.

So pleased I was at my desk with it’s window,

A street of houses bright yellow and blue

Watch as I come and go.

 

Seasons turn this highway morose with

grey limbs and brown slush,

A grocery scale hooked in my chest makes

Each bright green mile marker an apple added,

Weight tugs long after the dial has maxed out.

That is the dread that curls up in my head

And sleeps eight hours from the moment her

Orange Mini Cooper rolls into the parking lot

Until I walk out that door and go home again.

 

All day in his sleep, dread turns over or paces his feet.

Nightmare of anticipation, filled with threat if never

The bite. Some days go by with no attack, but others

Feel too often sting of her words,

Her criticism with no construction intended.

Unconscious claws scrape the floor,

Running from slumber’s scold.

 

Sarah snuffed that flame inside my chest-

The one I had so proudly lit,

So preciously cupped behind my palm,

So cherished the warm beauty I held.

Tears drip from well drilled deep with every

Blinker click as I slide off the exit,

Church steeple in distance a chilled breeze;

The cold wick in my heart not only snuffed,

But spat on, too.

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“This is what I looked like then I bought my first house,” I’ll say

I must admit I felt so terribly silly

Standing and squinting into the sunset

At my fiance, smile mirrored genuinely on his face-

He was the one gazing at the new home we owned,

Papers just signed this morning.

The rough red brick beneath my fingertips,

Warm with summer’s sun and

Promise of permanence for years to come.

 

At ten o’clock we sat at conference room table,

Papers slid against smooth glass top-

we signed away on higher numbers

Than we could really grasp at,

We giggled at the date- 2047.

I knew in that law office I cracked the cover

Of whatever novel my life may write,

And by the time I am back out on the blacktop

I’ve slipped into this beginning already,

My eyes grew to an old women’s

Reading that first line of the story again.

 

Though I felt silly I knew I would be glad

One day years from now to pull out an album,

look back to when my wrinkled hands were smooth,

spotless, and time so trivial I could giggle at three decades.

I will point to this picture of me, 24 and unaware,

Back when I hadn’t seen my children’s faces yet,

And be glad I stood, squinted into the sun

Standing on my first home’s stoop.

Porch Museum

Here, in the happy place

I can finally put up my sore feet

And enjoy the sweet summer air-

Sipping the syrup straight from the source.

A gallery ever changing graces these walls,

Full framed canvas, floor to ceiling, showcase masterpiece.

Painted in vibrant blues, strokes so steady and even,

Punctuated with white of brushes whim.

A mosaic of greens laid in the most delicate hues,

Gradually, gracefully ranged from lime to forest.

Summer’s morn’ is no less beautiful than

The dramatic monochrome of winter’s night

The deep dark of the horizon, accompanied by the

Unknown it contains, adverse new snowfall’s glow,

The pure white ground and blanket of silence it brings,

most unimaginable in the chatter of July while in my ear

Birds sing, but some are talking;

Toads croak, while others ribbit;

And an occasional car passes through

constant chirp of the cricket.

 

 

So glad I am to have finally found this happy place,

To sit in the air and live

alongside the painter and her palette;

Bear witness to the great artist ghost of the land.

Baylee Bright

There are few things more illuminating

Than a casual text with cheerful salutation:

“Hi Aunt Katie!”

A message from your fiance’s oldest niece,

Sweet and unsolicited,

Is the soft duvet of dawn after sleeplessness or

The growing yellow on each ascending step;

A light I’ve been waiting on.

So dark it seemed just three months ago

Under a blindfold made of questions,

Of finding work or money

Or the bravery to drive down the 90

That clear June night

With no plans to see the returning lane.

All of the sudden, here I sit,

A beautiful evening on the back porch

Interrupted by most joyous degree

In how my niece has greeted me-

The bright when fingers scrambling on wallpaper

finally flip the switch.

Teach me to love myself

Teach me to love myself:

 

I run only two miles in over twenty minutes,

Shadow cast by passing street lights shows

disappointment in front of me, below me

Behind me. Bouncing blackness mocks my shame.

 

Teach me to love myself:

 

I stand in the shower, alone with my chubby thighs,

Secret scars, stretch marks and cannot help

But think, “I am only 22 and I have ruined my body,”

My hidden razor begs to continue destruction.

 

Teach me to love myself:

 

I chat with my coworkers and our students,

My mind criticizing every word. I cannot find good

In my tasks, only mistakes I solely witness.

Locked in my mind, I know they deserve better than me.

 

Teach me to love myself:

 

One day, I will hold my child whose perfections

Exponentially outnumber my flaws. She will

Look up to me not knowing I am so menial;

Teach me to love myself so that I can teach her.

Kept Up

Three Thirty creeps on alarm clock,

other side framed by fiancée’s gentle snores

four hours deep in dreams.

Anxiety as I first felt it returns,

that monster that has lived under every bed,

Mind kept meddling,

The rhythm of pedals too loud

And feeling legs’ locomotive lunge

Keeps me from sleep.

 

My explorations’ memories left me obsessed

By the lonely buildings I sailed by

Which shrunken psych center no longer fills.

Dorm like cabins with chilly uniformity,

Appearance diverging only in

broken windows, vanished doors, unexpected overgrowth.

The spooked whispers of summer grasses

Mask a suffocating silence.

The inconsistent presence

Of a red car on my left shoulder

Gives me the notion

That I’m not welcomed here.

Yellow paint, warning weathered by decades’ decay,

Insists: CAUTION.

 

I still feel the sting of strength,

Willed to speed from the place which was prison to many

The way escape set fire to thighs and burned up to lungs,

And how saplings I saw in sepia pictures

were so much taller now; casting shadows, insisting leaves.

My ascend is followed by remains of border’s picket,

Uneven and white,

Haunting the grounds like ribs of a man;

weak, left in the sun to die.

I bought gas at the Jamesville depot today

Just as no sidewalk crack has a twin,

Families don’t fracture the same.

Is it sadder to shatter? Or does it

hurt more when divisions grow slowly,

revealed deeper each winter’s thaw

then all at once, passive distance hits

 

suddenly

 

When the oval canvases of

Garin and I, nautical siblings donning

chubby cheeks of three

(photos posed six years apart) that had lived

Happily for 20 years on dining room’s wall

 

Are taped in different boxes, sent to separate cars

hung over tables ten hours apart.

 

When tiny trinkets that

fell deep behind my six drawer dresser-

From bright plastic of careless childhood

To senseless wadded notes of adolescence-

 

Are swept out, widely discarded with

their dusty relatives from the past.

 

When my Saab is piled high, ‘college student’ style,

Not with Soft new sheets and shiny fresh binders,

but four years later, when shards of my childhood,

Baptismal dress, graduation gowns;

Second-grade paintings, senior awards

 

Are the weight felt in the right pedal

That twilight’s long drive home.