Tuesday, December 13, 2011


He burrows his hands in the filth of an ashtray. There is a glass window, two feet, and a world of difference in between us.

He is digging for buried treasure: lightly used cigarette butts. The one in his mouth is dangerously low, on the brink of singeing his untrimmed whiskers. He plucks it out from between his lips and presses it fervently to the end of his newest find.

To no avail. Not enough sparks. So both cigarettes go out with a puff.

The rubber lining on these window panes is not enough to keep the curls of smoke from wafting in, with traces of street smells clinging to their coattails.

Inside the coffee shop, my elevated chair makes the height of our heads equal. We could almost stare into each other’s eyes.

But he is lost in a monologue to the doorknob.

And I? I have glued my eyes to the paper I am writing. And when that ceases to be enough to distract me, I simply put my head down on the counter and breathe in the smoke.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cats fur to make kitten britches

The sliding pocket door of the forbidden closet across from the bedroom
was my father's childhood lullaby.
The brown paper bag crackling behind closed doors
was his rooster in the morning.
And he and his sister asked their father what was in the extra grocery sack, but it was always
cat's fur to make kitten britches.

The jaundiced halo that ringed his Mama's head,
the extra naps, the untouched plates of food, the decaying breath:
It was all woven into rounds of circadian melodies,
like the songs she taught at the elementary school.
And if anyone showed concern about her health, they were told it was just
cat's fur to make kitten britches.

Until one day, when his sister came home from work
and there was nothing but those plates on the table,
fork and knife still stuck in the mashed potatoes, no car in the garage.
So she rushed to the hospital,
but their Mama never came home to wash those dishes.
And maybe the doctors could've caught the cirrhosis earlier, but it had simply been
cat's fur to make kitten britches.

And they ask me now why I never throw back the vodka or shotgun a beer
But in my family, there were too many secrets-
puzzle pieces that we're still gathering in the burial shroud,
the way normal children tuck wildflowers in their skirts.
And we track down whatever clues we can find,
the way normal children chase butterflies in the field.
Because we feel entitled to our own family history- that it should not just be
cat's fur to make kitten britches.