The Man Who Called from Inside the House

Yeah, I was the one who told her
the call came from inside the house and
that she’d better check on the children.
I was playing both roles while hiding
under one of the beds with a phone
and a voice-changer thing. The kids,
we bribed with candy, made them
lie still, a few little dabs of sauce—
pizza sauce—on their pajamas
and on their faces. And then
what was supposed to happen is
that I was supposed to jump out
with two extra-large pizzas, plus
a certificate for free pizza for life.
She was the big winner, see—
it was all a special promotion,
a way to try to get some attention.
You have to go viral these days,
they call it, to get anyone to notice.
But the whole thing backfired.
She saw the kids and the sauce,
and she didn’t wait around for
anything to be explained, or
anything to be given to her.
She ran out that front door,
and I don’t think anyone ever
saw her again. After a while,
the kids and I shrugged, ate
both the pizzas. We were all
hungry, and it seemed like
the best thing to do then,
under the circumstances.
The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs


The Woman with the $250 Cookie Recipe

This is how I have $250 worth of fun.
Neiman-Marcus will regret the day
they ever messed with me, I tell you.
Let’s make cookie after cookie
after cookie, stick it to all the snobs
of the world, with their Zodiac Rooms
and their popovers and cups of broth,
everything fancy and secretly expensive.
“I wish you wouldn’t do this,” she said,
the woman in the accounting department.
I just laughed right into the phone, then
made a batch of cookies, the first
of so many. Revenge, a bite at a time,
112 and 112 and 112 more each day.

(Costs a) Fortune Cookie


The Best Friend of the Girl with Spiders in Her Beehive

I told Lurleen, and her mama and daddy tried to tell her, too,
that no good would come of ratting her hair that high,
using all that hairspray. We all like a little bit of lift on top—
I do, too, even now—but Lurleen always did take things
a little bit too far. The shortest skirts, the tallest boots,
the highest hair. I told her she should at least take it down
and wash it now and then. She’d just laugh, light another
Lark cigarette. I thought maybe her hairdo would explode,
catch on fire someday. We all knew something would
happen. But what actually did happen—all them
baby black widow spiders hatching one day, biting
on Lurleen’s head as she screamed and cried, tried
to smack them, her beautiful tall tower of hair
just falling all around her, and all those little dots
of blood and smacked spiders on her shoulders—
well. That was something I’ll never forget, nor
anybody else around here, neither. I still think of it
every day now, when I take my comb and my Aqua Net,
look in the mirror, decide Maybe that’s high enough.

Spiders in the Hairdo/Tressed to Kill

Do you have an urban legend that you’d like to see made into a persona poem like this? If so, please leave it in the comments. Thanks!


The Vanishing Lady’s Daughter

But when I returned,
she had vanished, my mother,
and the hotel doctor was
only looking me up and down,
not answering, and the manager,
the hotel manager, showed me
the register, my mother’s name
nowhere to be found. And oh,
then the room! Room 342
was all turned round, no
velvet curtain, no wallpaper
with roses, though I knew—
I know!—they were there before.
And where was my mother,
with her fever and her sores,
and I supposed to help her but
delayed, the horseman driving
in circles, heaven knows why?
We should never have come there,
to Paris. We’d have been safer
going straight home, but Mother
had such a notion to see
the great Exposition for a change
after India, its misery and heat.
Do you suppose she’s seeing it now?
Perhaps she shall find me here
in England (but not at home).
Perhaps she shall carry
in her valise—also missing—
a set of fancy teacups or
a souvenir book of photographs.
That is why I stay here,
in this room, by this window.
I tear my shirtwaist, my hair.
I look out over the grounds,
beautiful as Versailles.
I stay. I tear. I look. I wait.

Read the original legend here.


Bury the Baby Under the Yew Tree: PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 30 (!)

There’s no use now in crying.
He’ll be wanting his dinner,
and there are a great many things
to see to, since you’ve been
lying-in and taken ill. Your sewing,
for example, or a new quilt, now that
you’ve gone and used the old one
to wrap the poor little dead thing.
It never stood a chance, you know:
Sometimes nature takes care of
such problems, carries out
God’s will. In time, it will seem
a kindness. To think of it, though —
using your wedding quilt like this,
which we all spent so many long hours
piecing. I call that selfish, and I
don’t mind saying so. Well. Be that
as it may. Dash some cold water
on your face now, and do
that which must be done.


I Hid in My Bread: NaPoWriMo 2015, Day 8

If truth be told
(and it seems I may as well)
we did see the ships come in

that night, but we hid behind rocks
and chewed our hair, the hems of our
nightgowns, and wished to never be


For days and nights after, we hid
in our houses — I hid in my bread,
as if the flour had closed my eyes
and ears — not answering their
entreaties, becoming more and more
brazen in our ignoring. Some of us

never did change out of our nightgowns.
We chew on them still, the salted hems,
while we go about our various occupations
and the small sails hit the horizon.


Little Pings and Pops: April 2015 PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 9

We worked it out by
plugging my circuits
into his circuits
and then everything
was fine. Was OK.


It’s a couple of years
later now, and there are
little pings and pops

here and there,
nothing serious,

but I begin to wonder if
we need some kind of reset
or if any of this was right,
from the very beginning,

and also whether
the best thing to do
on the day of that
first problem

was not to interlock
our circuits but to
disconnect our hoses,
reprogram our CPUs
to ignore each other,

and roll our separate ways.


In the Grand Rapids Airport: April 2015 PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 12

What is your damage?, he said,
but the way he spat it out told me
that he didn’t really want to know —
not there in the Grand Rapids airport
(do I remember right that it was named
for Gerald Ford?) while we ate hot dogs
and waited for our flight home. Home.
Now, there’s a word for you. What a joke.
Maybe my damage was all the time spent
assuaging him, his ego, assuring him
that he was smarter than me, that I was
lucky to be with him, even when he was
surly as any god who is distant more so
than loving. But I didn’t answer that day.
I never did answer, really — I just left
when he told me to leave. I even left
our cats to fend for themselves with him.
But that day, like I said, I didn’t say
much of anything until we got on the
plane and we both made small talk
with the other person in our row. He
was good at that. You’d never know
we were fighting, every day a little
more damage, and that a moment before
we got on the plane, I’d flicked
a piece of onion off the table,
wadded up my napkin, and cried.