NaPo #29: Mock trial

Mock trial

I’ll be a witness, someone sobbing out a Perry Mason
fantasy of epiphanies, a gasp of “you!” and the music

goes dun dun dun, someone should scream, her hand
curled shaking around her throat then up to cover her

mouth, her lipstick is red in my head but the real image
is black and white and intense, bright grey. That’s how

I always think I should have found him, should have
stopped, cue a clangor of discordant trumpets, and scream

but it was more a soft huff of breath, was it out or in?
and lips too numb to do more than stay somewhere

on my face. But now, now I am playing at witness, playing
that a preacher asked for one and I stood sobbing and crying

yes, and there I dashed my name down on the paper, dashed
something down on too real rocks like the children of Amalek

but we are playacting, remember. I am a witness and shall play
at groping around in my memory for some forgotten fact,

a date, a time, when I last saw Jimmy, how I knew George
started the fire, bring it all up and out and set it

before the mock jury as I’ve been instructed as I sat
in that murky visitor’s office, the walls with two red holes

and liquid had rolled out and down and froze, and I
could only stare in horror dreaming that here was blood

more than the spots on my tea towels when he died
when I did not scream, when I did not feel anything

but now I will say that I was just a little angry, here,
talking of Jimmy and George, that I was betrayed, but

just a little bit, by a two-timing man. I can’t help
but put a little Hepburn in, a little smug call out

to Jerry the Nipper. What have I seen? What
did I do? Oh, I will be the greatest witness

anyone in mock trials has ever seen. I will make
a mockery of all of it. Can I get an amen?

NaPo #28: Laundering



He likes the detergent pods, but I
wear a shirt after and it smells
of swamp or something tidal, dying
against my skin. Like a dog
chasing my tail I try to turn quickly
enough to catch my own scent, try
to smell nothing long enough to smell
something, I open my mouth and ape
the lions using their tongues as scoops
for air and all those invisible spores
and then I realize that I’m inviting
invisible spores to the porous sponge
of my tongue. I shut my mouth.


Cold/cold then hot. I imagine my jeans
feel like me outside in that aching rain
that destroyed my umbrella, felt more
like a slapping wave with water shooting
up my nose than mere rain, and I couldn’t
see except there was a car’s lights and was
it stopped or moving, the light cascading
down the street on the water. Home,
I slipped down in more water, purposefully
despite the wrinkling of my feet in the cold
slosh of my shoes, and boiled.


You cannot forget the clothes
bounding around in the dryer, not here
with that clanking announcement that it
is starting and stopping, and the occasional
roar that seems related to nothing but might
mean the drum is about to slip its tether
and race down the hall, out the door, become
a hamster wheel for the neighbor’s golden,
and leave me shouting Amana! Come back!


I am satisfied with laundry. There is something
in that hot scent of clothes popped
out like a poptart from a toaster.


The sweater would be blue, grey blue
but blue, if you gathered the soft bundles
of lint we grow here and spun them
into an odd, lumping yarn. You would
snug yourself in, be able to hide
in any store’s denim section, disappear
if you were silhouetted against the soft,
close, raining, lowering sky.


Four hampers. It doesn’t seem
as if we have so many clothes but still
we can fill four hampers between two
of us and our hangers are not empty.

As I was hanging a warm shirt, I thought
I should find another like it, but looked
at my closet’s rail, hidden by dozens
of blouses, sweaters, thought of charity
but knew I would only be giving to make
more room for consumption, some Puritanical
impulse making me vow my next purchase
would be something unflattering and cold.

NaPo #25: Cordless


I always wonder if they get a buzz,
or at least a tingle, in their teeth
like chewing foil. One sticks with usb,
but the other gnaws on power cables.
Transformers add a piquant, oaky tone,
or taste of special kibble, something pricy
that goes rancid quickly but when fresh
is crunchy, oily goodness. I have shocked
myself moving a charging laptop off
the dining table, but the cats are not
internally illumined or all charred
like marshmallows left in a radar range,
transmuted into something grey and strange.

NaPo #23: Coke


I got too thirsty, sitting
in the car for that endless trek
across Wyoming or Arizona or Utah,
it didn’t really matter just a big,
dusty state in a big, dusty car
and I got a dime from Mom, it was hot
from a hot pocketbook in a hot car
into my hot, sweating hand. I stood
at the big cooler, my hand along
the cold, crimped caps,
it was the kind with clamps
that released when you put in
your sweaty coin and chose
which bottle to pull. Coke
or Orange Crush, the endless debate,
my fingers trailing from one
to the other, and I put
my coin in clinking
and then the rising greed,
thinking two bottles pulled
at the same time
would fool the stupid
machine into releasing both.
I got neither. There is always
someone one step ahead.

NaPo #22: HHS


A horde of smokers draped across the planters
sitting in their blue haze in the graceful curve

of the building’s frontage. As I came close,
a freckling tourist laughed and took an iPhone picture

her other hand curled around a bottle of water,
with minerals added for the taste of fresh rocks.

I wondered if she could see what I always tried,
what Wikipedia took pains to mention, that

the architecture is Egyptian Revival. You picture
pyramids and Karnak and the women all wearing strap-on

beards, but there is little to untrained eyes but the odd
static frieze above the door, the eyes migrated to the ears’

edges, the feet oddly heel to toe. A man echo
laughed, his arm a sweep of ember

and trailing grey. ‘Health and Human Services!”
he crowed. “Oh we are a picture!” And the crowd,

their eyes migrating to the north, to the tourist
whose sandals flapped against C Street’s quiet sidewalks,

seemed torn between glaring and laughing, between
anger and joy. And chose joy.

NaPo #21: Burley and bright

Burley and bright

He was complaining before he ever slammed
into the driver’s seat, his hands crinkling

on the tobacco’s pouch, never a fumble
in his routine. I hoped he would start the car up

before he lit it, would let me open my window,
but the outrage was too much. (I used to buy

him pipes, I don’t know if I knew
he would die of the smoke and the drink or if

it was like buying him his own hand, he was so lost
without it. Mom always looked at me, her face

set and old. I thought she grew tired of the shoutiness
of his cough, as if he wanted the world to know these lungs

were in the world, like a shocked baby’s first exclamation)
This time, it was a song that set him off. Before

it was Jack Tripper! Living with two women!
(I can’t know now if he hated more that Jack

played at being gay or if it was the straight threesome. I wish
I had sidled up and asked, but I could lose Gilligan

next, or Joe might lose Dukes of Hazzard and he
wouldn’t forgive that. Or we’d have to say

a fumbling rosary, I always found my fingers
too obsessed with the chain and not able to still

on the beads, even the ones made of petals.
I hate the smell of roses.) Or Newhart. No, I never

understood that either. But this time, it all came down
to a song that Maxine chose, the organist coaxing us up and out

with her stolid play, her firm, sharp soprano, afraid of our
Roman Cacophonism, our sad congregation

with too much decorum and not enough pitch.
Simple Gifts. Quakers. Or Shakers. (But o Lord,

not of moneymakers.) No, this time it was theology,
the infidel claiming God wants us stupid, wants

us like fatalistic porcupines just curled up waiting
for the coyotes, hardly daring to hope.

NaPo #20: To the Dying

To the Dying

You could consider generously staying.
You could consider putting to the side
all contemplation of mortality
and just sticking around. Oh, yeah, it sucks
that you’re in pain, but be a mensch and think
(you might need to wake from your coma first)
of our pain, too. This sorrow is much worse
than cancer (of course I have never had
a cancer, but I had a fish that died
when I was eight. I cried for forty five
minutes straight, I’m told. What a great fish,
I’m told. Now doesn’t that just break your heart?)

Surviving is Underrated