Edge of Night

But all I ever saw of that one was the commercial—
my mother’s only soap opera was All My Children,
every day at 1:00. Noon, when we lived in Minnesota,
which is where I first began to follow it, when poor
Nina was in the bank vault without her insulin,
held hostage during a robbery, and Erica was having
another round of marital problems, this time with Tom,
who (it seemed) only ever wanted to have a baby,
whether with this wife or the next. Did he have a baby
with Brooke, Erica’s do-gooder nemesis? (I forget, and
anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.) At the time when
I picked up the thread of the story, Erica was with Tom,
though my mother told me that would not last, and
she was right. There were two things my mother told me
not to tell my grandmother: that she smoked, and that
she watched a soap opera (even just one), though
my grandmother smoked like a chimney and, no fan
of soap operas herself, surely would have understood
the value of another daytime vice, a well-timed
respite, right at the edge of 1:00. Or noon.

Today’s Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge prompt was “______ of ______.”


At Six and Forty-Six

I almost thought I could catch them,
the bubbles chasing around and around
on the walls as the pipe organ played
and the fake Muppets did whatever they did.
No bubbles at all, just reflections from tiny mirrors
on the outside of a ball that hung from the ceiling
of Pizza & Pipes in Bellevue, Washington,
like an indoor sun. I saw that same magic trick
last night at Sleeping Village in Chicago,
and here’s the thing: It still worked.



Today’s Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge prompt was “reflection.”


A Flash of a Dog

Standing in a cul de sac
eating saltines
while someone else’s dachshund
jumps and snaps for them
and the kid who owns the dachshund
tells me not to worry, but I do.

A flash of a dog,

though my brother might know it—
he was older every time we lived somewhere,
every time we moved away.

Today’s Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge prompt was to write a pet poem.



Or let’s go ahead and call them
for extra cringe
They were cotton, I’m sure

maybe even Carter’s brand
If they could just stay little ’til their Carter’s wear out
No defense against an old man’s hand

I almost told my mother
(how many years later? maybe three)
right before we moved away

The old man and his old wife
she knew she knew she knew
were coming to visit us, to say goodbye

I stood in our downstairs bathroom
but then they were at the front door
and by then, it was long since over
I had already aged out, was no longer


Today’s Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge prompt was to choose an article of clothing and make it the title.



King Tut Lived in Our Laundry Chute

King Tut lived in our laundry chute
the dark wooden door
the airy metal-walled chamber
that led to the beyond
or nothing.

Can it be that I once went down it,
landing in a plastic basket
of sheets and towels, not caring
if they were dirty or clean,

only that they softened my landing?
We must have been alone in the house,
if that happened. I do know, I do recall

many nights, walking a wide path
to avoid that door
as my brother whispered, King Tut

Today’s Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge prompt was “opening.”


Winter, 1981

The smell of your own snot,
recirculated air, saliva,
frozen and thawed, over and over
inside a striped, acrylic ski mask.
One-piece, zip-up snowsuits,
the bathroom difficulties they caused,
and resulting accidents (both kinds).
The teeth of someone else’s ice skate
running over your finger on the floor
of the second-grade cloakroom at school.
And yet there was also the brick-walled kitchen,
the radio on cold, dark mornings, playing
country music—any port in a storm—

(it sounded like)
Oom papa oom papa oom papa mau mau.

Today’s Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge prompt was to write a poem about displeasure or pleasure.


Night, Gown

A pre-softened hand-me-down
from a daughter of some friend of my mother’s,
white cotton blend with rosebuds, faded.
My mother has cut a sprig of lilacs, put them
in a small vase on my nightstand. It is still light out;
the robins, settling in, call to each other. I think
how easily I could climb out onto the small roof
under my window, sit there unseen in my
borrowed nightgown.

Today’s prompt for the Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge was “Night _____.”



Don’t mythologize anything
like how it was to be three—
you were there and yet you were not.
By now, your memories are at least
75 percent the nacre of time,
year upon year, layers as yellow as
a ’70s living room carpet, say, or
formerly white floor-length curtains,
a puff of nicotine, billowing.



Today’s prompt in the Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge was “three.”


Message in the Milk

Alpha-Bits cereal for breakfast,
what does it spell in your spoon?
It could be almost anything
because nothing means much yet,
except the letters in your own name.
There’s an A, a Y—the X doesn’t belong,
but you acknowledge it anyway,
its jumping-jack arms and legs,
how it shouts, or seems to,
as it tumbles around and around
and around.



This month, I’m doing the Poetic Asides Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge. Today’s prompt was to write an alpha poem.


October, I Can’t Tell You Where

Once upon a time, a door slammed
hard, and then it bounced once or twice
in its corrupted metal frame.
It was a screen door, you see, and it smelled
dusty. Bits of dead flies were stuck in the squares
of the screen, larger pieces and smaller ones,
some identifiable and some not. It was as if the flies
just reached the end of the world and expired,
and it’s possible that they were the dusty smell.
It’s possible that the slam of the screen door was
a warning, like the clouds, secretly full of the first snow.
But you were new in town and would never be old in town,
and you didn’t know how to read
(that’s not true—you read books, faces, voices—but
you missed this particular warning,
the screen,
the flies,
the clouds,
the waiting snow.)

This month, I’m once again doing the Poetic Asides Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge. Today’s prompt was “Once Upon a Time.”