Sixfold poetry winter 20.., p.8
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       Sixfold Poetry Winter 2016, p.8

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Tombstones askew, vying to be first to break

  the gum line and mark the lost babies with no remorse

  for making crooked the clean straight rows

  measured as the meter of nursery rhymes

  that trilled across their white surface.

  Pressing your tender-smooth cheeks

  I try to feel the harbingers of adult-hood,

  of the cutting ahead, some ghost braille

  cells that spell your story, code I

  cannot read. More solid than flesh they will lie

  with you long after I stop sharing your pillow.

  They will shape the words you form

  your life with, language I only hope to understand.

  Unkind reminders, lucky gatekeepers

  of your breath. They will know you—

  blood and bone, better than I—I who grew them in you while you grew in me—

  they will guard your secrets, daughter, cradle to grave.

  The Cert

  My grandmother’s blue raincoat takes me by surprise

  Here is her closet behind dry-cleaner’s plastic, the rip

  In the pocket finally fixed. I remember her eyes

  Finding me crouched behind the darkness of her perfumed dresses, my lip

  Bit, eyes clenched (instantly invisible), broken beads ready to rain

  From my clutched hands. But, innocent now, into the cuff I slip

  My hand to find her—smooth nails, rings, the pillowy veins

  She hated, wishing gloves still a must in ladies fashion. I tear

  The clear sheath and look for missed stains

  That might map the course we traveled—that root beer

  Spill from lunch at Friendly’s is now just shadow.

  I press my face to the wide lapel but don’t find her there

  Either. Guiding my arms through the sleeves—too short—though

  In the mirror I make her move again, feel her low

  Voice in the warmth of the upturned collar,

  In the pocket, a Cert, half-way to powder.


  I inspected the buds at night with my dad

  to see which might bloom by morning.

  Still I was always surprised by the red

  or peach that burst forth from the heart

  of the blossoms and enlivened the quiet

  green bank. We made sure to get a picture;

  they were only there for the day, but the picture

  would last much longer. You think of becoming a dad

  when I come home today as we sit in the quiet

  kitchen smiling. You make toast in the morning,

  ask how I feel, say you love me with all of your heart.

  I laugh at your doting and ask for the red

  raspberry jam, but you say there’s no red

  only black. I look at my belly, try to picture

  how it will pop out and how the little heart

  beat will get strong. I’ve been watching, like my dad,

  for the daylilies, but it’s early yet, only May this morning.

  The green swords protect the roots, but the top’s pursed lips are quiet.

  I leave the radio off and enjoy the quiet

  drive to work. The coats of the thoroughbreds

  steam; the rain has hushed the morning.

  At lunch I go to the library and leaf through picture

  books, ones I had as a child. A young dad

  guides the scissors as his daughter cuts a heart

  from pink paper. It’s an I Love You Heart,

  she beams to her father, forgetting the rule about quiet.

  He puts a finger to his lips, and I see you as a dad.

  In the bathroom I find a bright red

  has filled the bowl. At the doctor’s they scan another picture,

  but there is no longer shows the pulse of the first morning.

  The blood comes heavy in the night, and in morning

  you’re still awake by my side. I lay my head on your heart,

  am soothed by its beat. I think of the small paper picture

  and the glowing shape that was its center. I stay quiet,

  hold my hand to my belly and wait. We watch the red

  blossom on the sheet; Someday, you’ll be a great dad.

  I remember the morning you thought you’d be a dad,

  a picture of the future as clear as the coming red

  or peach daylilies, before the heart went quiet.

  James Wolf

  An Act of Kindness

  We are not who we say we are. We have severely failed to provide anyone the opportunity for fulfillment. Stethoscopes, ballet slippers. Crayons, pastels, and fingerpaints. A floor riddled with exit wounds, the foundations quenched by spilled milk. Ironically, you can’t hear all the shouting pouring out from the four walls of this tiny universe. He said, she said, she pushed, he fell, no he didn’t—bit by words more fanged than the mouths from which they came.

  I’m starting to mistake our voices for gunshots. Please stop pulling so many triggers at once.

  We take small steps. Less like who we say we are, less like who we should be. Unsteady if we’re lucky, fumbling backwards, awkward and accidental. Still no control over the momentum we generate for ourselves, surprised by all the tumbles (seeing the forest for the upside down trees might be all the perspective we’re going to get).

  I have propped myself up on siblings who might still be bruised from my own growing pains. I have fashioned spare limbs from the words of friends who indulge me in moments of nonsense. Today, in the tenuous safety and dusty nebulae of four walls, I tried to put on McKenna’s coat (she’s two; she loved it). Tomorrow, I’ll teach an eight year old wrist locks. There may be bruises. There will never be shouting. We are more than that. That’s not who they deserve to be.

  And that’s not who I will let them become.


  Dear, (and from the start, written with too much heart, a clumsy greeting, and the deepest sense of don’t in his chest)

  I wish you’d stop reading books like crystal balls as if they could foretell your future. As if the crinkled mirrors they contain aren’t worth gazing into (look at all that gorgeous lettering—you could mistake the lines of your face for typography). Your reflection should fall apart at the monument you are, despair whenever you walk away. Most people don’t remember what wild, wonderful faces they made seeing how beautiful they were for the first time, but somehow we grow up learning that our only value lies in our reflection? Who looks at ANYONE and thinks well, aren’t you hideous? Listen (and when I say listen, I mean you steady your shaking everything, twist your expression into something uncomfortably spectacular, like your first reflection, and find this letter like a mirror).

  When I say every experience

  is the same kind of overlap you find

  in all of those pages you turn.

  You offer up so much of yourself to their pleas,

  and they need you to forgive.

  (What is forgiveness?)

  When I say covering declarations

  of your beauty

  with too many adjectives

  would weigh it down.

  When I say this won’t last. Every word is truth, regardless of your own admission or the escape routes you’ve considered. Those hollowed caverns in your chest stand on scaffolds. A lesser body would not carve out the walls of its own future, or push deeper in despite fear of collapse.

  You are a monument.

  To Tiger

  You have thumbtack claws. A roar that travels in circles. Sometimes, simply standing near you is to place my head between your jaws. It’s no metaphor—I’ve felt teeth. You wouldn’t be the first to nip at a provider, back bristling for the contest as the two of us inch the volume up on our growls, snarling warnings and tweaking the slant of brows into granite intimidation. Yours is a force set to self-destruct as easily as it could demolish. A cub
behind bars, steadily adding to a collection of scrapes both reckless and incidental. All that thrashing, all those tears.

  Are you okay? You have thumbtack claws. I swear I see them dragging tallies through the dirt most days, trying to puzzle through a maze of steel wire. We all do it, or so I hope. Some scope out finish lines and sprint, others are heavy-footed with little foresight. You just had the 1 in 80 chance of being forced to navigate in the dark, not to mention the collision of echoes that comes with it. There are stretches—days, weeks—when they can only sit back and watch you take the same right turn over, and over, and over.

  So there’s whiplash. Eruptions. Things come to blows. I keep tripping on the line between hug and straitjacket.

  “Tiger, stop!”

  “Ooops,” the tiger says. “Tiger is sorry.”

  Two beasts, mangled, panting, fur in knots. The linoleum is hard on both of us, emaciated as we look. Why doesn’t this ever end up on the carpet?

  “Read to tiger?” But tiger reads to me, and I find myself wondering which of us is more comforted in this moment, hoping that we are both stronger for it.


  (Time and Teeth)

  Count teeth like oak rings


  mouth of a lion,

  freshly satisfied


  with all its heart set on showing off

  what came before, or how much is left.

  I dont really know if an extra year means much

  until you get to the last one.

  “Look at all the shit I should’ve done by now,”

  hours questioned,

  breath withheld.

  Someone hasn’t given you enough attention.

  Up until now, I’ve only been crawling. The arms shift, the legs rock one after another, limbs so careful to keep you balanced and on track. Someone put Big Bird on a coffee table, six inches out of reach. He’s soft and grinning, and that plush beak is teething’s best friend. Scratch that, second best. The dog strolls by. Greetings in kisses. Gaping, toothless jaws from the both of us, indulging in sensory overload.

  Hey, help me out here.

  Watching, blindly

  the clock at midnight.

  And a voice that makes noise loud enough

  for the ghosts of cathedral towers

  to remind us

  this day, we give it a lot of weight. That we aren’t


  Not yet. I still have so much to do.

  I’m getting old.

  I’m too young to understand what that even means.

  Death on the lookout,

  vague sense of medical vigilance,

  financial necessities,

  who I have been,

  and who I will be.

  I spent a lot of time with that dog. Now I chew things over longer than I probably need to. Before today, I had a major at a university. Rewind some more, find me braver than I know myself. (“Meet me here this afternoon. I’ve got a surprise for you.”) Decisive moments, late nights with friends (growing security in dank smells), sleeping on roll-out mattresses with no a/c. Nostalgia is just the reminder that we are already living. Ageless, beautiful rows of moments strung together out of sequence like teeth lining the jaws of a lion.

  That grin alone forms lifetimes.

  Jane A. Horvat

  the sky is falling, LOUDLY

  When I was hatched

  my mom had to pick away the eggshells,

  break the film between my oasis and the noise.

  It were as if I knew beforehand how loud the world would be.

  Even then, eagerness to be overwhelmed was not part of

  my genetic makeup.

  I had hoped my down feathers would muffle the sounds

  or that my wings could carry me into

  a vacuum of sorts.

  Yet, one morning I woke up to the screech of

  the rusty clipping shears

  and knew I’d be walking to Radio Shack

  to buy a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

  I wished for hearing aids

  so I could have the ability to turn them off.

  I learned to speak with my hands

  so I could stop listening with my mouth.

  Once upon a time

  they asked me

  “What came first,

  the chicken or the egg?”

  but that question is irrelevant

  when you were born a chicken

  but identify as a deaf-leopard

  hiding behind her spots.

  Same shit different day

  Today I told myself,

       “Hey, it’s just a day.

       You’ll put on a white blouse,

       Tuck it into your pencil skirt,

       And catch the metro.

       Some business man in an

       Expensive suit will upend his

       Gourmet coffee on your shirt

       And grumble, exasperated,

       About his bad luck

       Without telling you he’s sorry

       Because he doesn’t have time to be sorry

       And you won’t have time to change

       But you’ll stop by the Gap

       And rip the closest cream-colored shirt

       Off its hanger and it’ll be rung up

       And on you before you realize

       You needed to buy white not cream.”

  All in all,

       today could be worse.

  But I sighed

       because I told myself that yesterday.

  Blank Stares Don’t Create Fairy Tales

  Is there a message to decipher or lines to read between

  now that I’ve paused?

  Before, everything was encrypted, sheaves of allegories lay strewn,

  graphite and wood shavings littered the bottom of the basket.

  I lived in tornado alley and new twisters swept through every weekend.

  I would hide in the cellar, tie myself to a pipe, and create.

  Chaos and angst spurred the gradual bulge of my forearm muscles.

  The cacophony of never-resolving arguments was my vinyl-encased soundtrack.

  I twirled ’round and ’round while maintaining the stunning lines ’rinas must keep

  but only when the winds were whipping past at 70 mph or more.

  I locked myself down there as limb-ripping gales tore through foundations.

  Countless scribbles left ridges on the walls, the floor, my eyelids, everywhere.

  Streaming hair fanned out mid-spin. Should’ve snapped photos it was so picturesque.

  Perpetual despair looked beautiful on me. Occasional pleasure reapplied my rogue.

  Now my mail arrives at a different address and contentment accompanies me

  as the rungs of the high-backed chair bitingly remind me I’m stagnant.

  I no longer pursue the same utensils.

  My creations would weep if they weren’t already extinct.

  Can’t craft a code or spin a yarn woven with illusion, not when I’m submerged in smiles.

  What does that say about me?

  My current queries don’t spawn stories or sonnets, just a frightened preponderance

  of what this conundrum entails for a future in fairy-dust and freedom.

  Is it even worth pressing play if there is nothing to watch?


  When I find myself in the colors

  I drown in a pool of lavender.

  A pedophile skips stones

  across the surface.

  Each plop sends

  a ripple of turquoise spreading out,

  but when the jagged rock

  scrapes my forehead, fuchsia

  drips down the side of my face.

  When the droplet collides with
r />   the gripping lavender

  a shimmering silver portal

  opens and transports us,

  the pedophile,

  the Vacation Bible School group

  decked out in matching

  tangerine T-shirts,

  and I

  into a silent movie

  where it’s raining black and white

  and my mauve screams

  meet the dead air

  and my head goes under

  the grey water

  while the pedophile’s cream whistle

  is mean to keep his mind

  off the pink pigtails

  on my side of submerged Saturn.

  Mint smiles turn towards

  the smoothness of his distraction.

  I notice them

  with my violet eyes

  and they pass over my flailing

  until everything fades to black

  and we are all just swimming

  on opposite shores of Lake Eerie.

  Pretty in P!nk

  Looking in the mirror is how you and I play Russian roulette.

  Looking over our shoulders is how we take a break from playing dumb.

  You twirl me around after to our wedding song,

  But I’m wearing a blood-splattered negligée,

  And you’re sporting a ripped oxford and multiple stab wounds.

  God, I hate how much I love you.

  When people ask us how we’re doing

  We smile with our mouths closed and say,

  “We’re so much more than fine.”

  Never lying, just burning down and freezing to death in the same breath.

  We were smart enough

  To avoid purchasing the glass house,

  Despite the realtor’s insistence of it having

  The perfect backyard of sand and cacti.

  We are not black and white picket fence people.

  No, we are black and blue bruises people,

  Pink and green-eyed monster people,

  Purple hearts for bravery and run-through-every-yellow-light people.

  We continue to try even though we’ve gone colorblind.

  Your embrace is holding a hand warmer

  And drinking cinnamon whisky apple cider until

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