a girl child

two decades ago i took

an overdue trip to Central Ohio

introducing my former mother-in-law to her six month old twin grandsons

we got to talking about Kentucky

as all transplanted Kentuckians do

we bounced gurgling baby innocence on our respective maternal knees having our own little gossip social

curling wispy baby hairs in her worn fingers

her laughter turned to pained breaths

as she shuttered out

a mortifying truth

about a bluegrass upbringing

she was discussing how she had been repeatedly raped as a girl by her father in Hyden, Kentucky

ran away to something worse at 14

how her first marriage ended when she found her alcoholic unemploymed coal miner husband was molesting her two little girls while she was waitressing to support the jerk

fleeing north to Ohio with them

to single motherdom with three kids in the 1960s living in a car until she could afford a place to rent

tears streamed down

her withered cheeks

as she said

“A girl child isn’t safe growing up around a family of men in the South.”

20 years later i think of her words and the women in my biological family

four generations of women who tried to protect their genitalia from one family member

the irony of being expected to smile and pretend

give forgiving hugs

that i’m the one who doesn’t feel comfortable coming to the Thanksgiving table

not the man who couldn’t keep his hands to himself

tough eggs

it’s frustrating

when you’re trying

to teach your offspring

to fly off

from the nest

when

they are pigeons

the size of bowling balls

with no desire

to put aerodynamics

to the test

Paris in the rain

a woman’s life

is too tenuous

delicate

billowy

spider web

close call on I-75

in preterm labor

on the way to the

Paris airport

in the rain

fragile

beautiful

precious

sacrosanct

finite

for bad friends

bad family

bad coffee

bad shoes

bad mattresses

bad jobs

bad husbands

bad debt

and bad dick

learn this by 30 for maximum

enjoyment

future

female

conquerors

of a dying planet

1984

you should’ve stuck around, Dad

antidepressants were only

a few years away

or smoked pot

hell,

it’s so ironically wrong that you obliterated yourself

in Kentucky

when marijuana

was the top cash crop

in the state

How Isabella Conquers Her World

you have descended

from indigenous medicine women

and girl scout goddesses

you came into this life

with power that takes growing

into

head held high

with strong female role models

confidence you will cultivate

by surviving pain

rising to challenges

you’re finding out

you’re stronger than you know

by

creating your own peace

owning your joy

making happiness your choice

remembering you have endured

their belittling words

because

they need to feel better than you

because they have nothing to be proud

how sad is that

pity them

waste no time on bitterness

take comfort

people like this are their own reward

you will rise above their words

you will outlive their petty hearts

the world fears all shades of women and girls

who believe in themselves

do not ever give a bad person

the power

to make you feel like

you are less

to make you ashamed of the way you are woven into the fabric of our universe

or that it is anything but

perfectly divine

to be you

Liturgy of the Hours

every night you were away

i sought you out

through blackberry bramble ether

from weeping constellations above dixmyth avenue

to jessamine county barns filled with horse hay

perpetually wrapping blue ribbon around my finger

whispering vespers

my plea to the particles of the universe

to hold you together

to bring you back from oblivion

as you had done for me

you are my chosen family

inextricably part

of my thunderous heart

to which you will always hold the latchkey

yellow petals

i walked into our backyard and spoke

to the witch hazel tree this morning

she was the closest woman i could find

beneath a sun that decided to shine

for the first time in a week

witch hazel calms angry skin

soothes redness and inflammation

her fleshy bark turned to me as i told her our story

though she already knew the words

she had felt the earth around her roots quake as i screamed

for the baby i tried to give you who is buried perpetually at our feet

for the day i walked out on you in a restaurant

to not hurt you with my sharpened tongue

i didn’t want to lash out at you for wounds i’m still nursing

that you didn’t inflict

the way you had the nerve to follow me

and when our eyes met

you smiled because you love my damaged heart perfectly

i told the witch hazel tree all of this

her buds bloomed yellow petals for an answer

right in front of me

 

-i love you, James

 

 

electric bills and birthday candles

it would be all too easy
to allow life
to become a collection of
electric bills and birthday candles
trips to the market
couch bound tuesday nights
not enough for me
i desire adventurous books
sunrises over roman holidays
redemptive music
heroines doe eyed welling
on silvery screens
most importantly
an imperfect lover
whom i love
perfectly

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