Alternative History in Staunton, Virginia

featured in the poetry forum November 2, 2017  :: 0 comments

The man who sings my favorite song
wanders the streets of this small city.
He no longer carries his guitar,
too heavy for walking past seventy
on uneven brick sidewalks
that all run uphill.

An ex-smoker,
he catches his breath
beneath the marquee
of the last one-screen movie theater,
the one that used to show
movies he liked.
It reeks of buttered popcorn.
He moves on

past the site
of the old Woolworth’s,
the one that sold his records
back when they were hits,
when they crept out of open windows
even in this mountain town,

before they clung to him,
never leaving the room
with the reel to reel tape,
never leaving home.

editors note:

The last one to sing his song is himself. – mh clay

Thelma at HR-57

featured in the poetry forum August 14, 2017  :: 0 comments

After setting down her plate of chicken,
red beans, and rice, Thelma settles in,
full skirt spilling over the folding chair.

She sips Diet Coke, her one concession
to a snug waistband, as she watches
her husband step up to the spotlight.

She closes her eyes, tries to forget
the other musicians crowding the stage
at this Thursday night open mic.

She opens her eyes once her husband
plays the first notes on his guitar
in this dim, smokeless club. She recognizes

the song, “Blue Moon.” He’s played it
at home many times, sometimes fast, sometimes
slow. The notes hang in the air

like perfume would if anyone wore it
nowadays. She shushes the thin girls
at the next table although she knows

his guitar is louder. He speeds up,
and rainstorm notes flood the narrow room,
obscuring the distant moon.

She imagines the notes rushing onto 14th,
nipping at the ears of couples.
A young man in a vintage suit

raises one eyebrow. Her sister Callie winces,
lifting a bottle of low-carb beer
to her black lips. Thelma sits up,

letting her dinner cool as she applauds.
Then an old man raises his horn,
bringing the song back to jazz.

HR-57 was a music venue in DC

editors note:

A little swing ain’t a bad opening for a mic. – mh clay

For My Ex-Husband’s Twin Sons (1)

featured in the poetry forum June 12, 2017  :: 0 comments

Summer 1996

That summer we still believed in astrology.
Anything could happen. I could learn to drive
stick shift. The Indian astrologer predicted that
my soon-to-be ex-husband would father twin sons,
mother unknown.

All summer stringy-haired women wandered
in and out of the apartment. The hems
of their long skirts were as frayed
as my marriage was. The women brought
bruised fruit and scotch-taped paperbacks of esoteric
philosophy stinking of patchouli. Home from work,
I drank Café Bustelo with whole milk.
One woman stood barefoot in the backyard,
warning me about the man I liked.
All she needed to know was his
birth date.

I imagined driving away with Balzac’s novels
in my trunk. I popped the clutch
and went nowhere.

editors note:

When Mercury is in the house, apparently, strange women come, too. (We welcome Marianne to our crazy congress of Contributing Poets with this submission. Read more of her madness on her new page – check it out.) – mh clay

To Eat the Rowan’s Fruit

featured in the poetry forum March 14, 2016  :: 0 comments

The rowan is the sign of the thinker,
its fruit as bitter and seedy as thought.
Thin, orange pulp barely covers the pit.
Birds and deer avoid the rowan’s berries,
eating them last, after the frost.

I once knew someone who claimed
to have eaten this fruit.
It was something to tick off his list
like the juniper berries he smoked
or the rainforest he later visited.

One must boil the fruit, strain it
through cheesecloth, sugar it,
ferment it, or serve it
as a jelly with gout-giving game.

But he never mentioned
how bitter
or seedy
the rowan’s fruit was
as if he had gulped it down,
without thought.

editors note:

Tasted better or tasted worse; before you bite, consider your source. – mh clay

At Meridian Hill Park

featured in the poetry forum November 2, 2015  :: 0 comments

Beneath the welcoming oak tree,
only a block from U Street,
we listen to cicada strings

as the ground pushes back
against our hip bones like suspicion.

Still Earth seems to forgive, her pulse fluttering.
She offers us water; instead, we drink
from tiny bottles we don’t recycle.

She will follow us home from the park;
we will be driving, listening to the old songs,

not thinking of her.

editors note:

We think she’s a pushover; take what we want. One day, she’ll do the taking… – mh clay