The First Time

The first time I said “no”

It sounded like “I love you.”

He whispered it against my ear,

the words swiveling around the shell –

“Tell me you love me.”

“Tell me you love me.”

“If you say it, it won’t hurt like this.”

“Say, you love me.”

And he was right.

The words slipped, limp from my lips

and froze against the soft skin of my neck.

He flipped me over,

eye contact that was magic movie scene in the making

and my eyes were geometric shapes:

heavy plaid flannel eyelids,

all blurred and sparkling at the edges like

mermaid tail sequins glittered against black.

I cannot see his face through eyes like that.

The first time I said “no”

It sounded like “I love you.”

There was privacy in escape

and my voice was sorrow hiding

behind empty platitudes.

“Everything happens for a reason.”

Well, he didn’t ask to rob my house

until he was already in my fucking kitchen.

There was no hilltop to die on.

No cringeworthy argument to appease the masses.

I was wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

My bra and panties didn’t match.

I was not miscreant lurking in the dark alone.

I was standing out there in broad daylight.

I was outside a fucking Radio Shack.

I was 20 feet away from the sidewalk.

I could see the traffic on the highway.

But I can’t see his face in my memory.

© Laura A. Lord, 2021


Thank you to MindLoveMisery for the prompt.

Baptism

my grandfather stood waist deep in his Sunday best

white pressed sleeves rolled back to the elbows

the thin line press of his undershirt

stuck like pith to his stomach, chest

this was the same pool I’d done flips into the day before

red-rimmed eyes – chlorine stung

knuckles scraped from dragging my hands along the bottom

I had smuggled a cigarette into my purse

hid behind the pool house with a dark-haired boy

and inhaled like it was old hat

I balanced it in the thin triangle of my wrinkle pruned fingers

shared like a kiss

my lips

and his

and smoke and whisper and secrets

my grandfather stood waist deep in his Sunday best,

reciting a sermon from another era

and it bounced, tin can down the sidewalk

clink-clonk in my head

hellfire and damnation are a distracting monotone

when dark-haired boys are watching you slip your dress over your head

wade to the water and slide, mellifluous under the archway of his arms

hand on my head

arms crossed

pinch the nose shut

and I’m held, held, held

man’s hand on my chest

shorts and shirt sopping, sticking

under, under

under

my grandfather stood waist deep in his Sunday best,

just the hint of a fickle memory trickling around the corners

a slowness to his voice

grip grasp on the words, “In the name of the father…”

© Laura A. Lord, 2020


Thank you to MindLoveMisery for the prompt.

Glitter

I told you I was broken

and with a manic urgency you set off

screaming down the road of

destructive positivity –

“You’re perfect, babydoll.”

“You’re just fine.”

“Are you smoking crack, ‘cause that’s broken.

And you aren’t broken.”

I am okay with my broken.

I have no need to lessen who I am.

I am the steep, sharp edges of a cliffside.

I have watched as fickle shards of myself have cracked,

slipped and fallen into the sea.

I am headlights careening off

the sparkling bits of broken mirror glass.

I am shadow men lurking in the bushes,

impenetrable memories,

and one hell of an autonomic system.

I am human glitter –

a thousand, million pieces of all the things that have happened,

sharp and sparkling and elusive enough

to hide in your very plain sight.

So no, I’m not “smoking crack” broken.

I’m me, broken.

And we’re all glitter from down here.

© Laura A Lord, 2021


Thank you to MindLoveMisery for the prompt.

Earthquake

You are a hollow concrete wall,

stretching miles into the gray sky.

You are steady, unmovable,

perched on a plateau,

untouchable.

And I flourish in transformation.

I am lacy tendrils of running blue water

zig-zagging a dance down your barricade.

I am the shimmer in the distance,

small dust-cloud rising,

as the earth moves under your feet –

gorgeous earthquake.

It all transpired so quickly –

sweet caress to limp love-making.

My mind runs in slow circles,

meandering like creeping vines,

thorny growth,

sliding under my fingernails

and stowing deep in my memory.

I was always an eruption

and you were never shifting.

© Laura A. Lord, 2021


Thank you to MindLoveMisery for the prompt.

This Body

This body is a thing of beauty.

This body is the gorgeous stretch of scars

that link the pale, soft flesh of my chest.

This body has been home to babies I’ve held,

babies I’ve raised, babies I’ve loved,

babies I’ve lost…

babies I’ve grown and and nursed and passed on to arms that weren’t mine.

Babies I only see in photos, half a world away.

This body has been laid out like a map,

designed by callous hands and careful lips,

by affirmations,

by chance,

by acutely embedded wounds

and deep, diving devotion.

This body has been wrenched in two –

pulled slick and tight,

Pinned, irresistible rainbow prism light

caught in hands

massaged pink as rose quartz

and fingered bloody.

This body is divine.

This body is a holy trinity,

a come-to-Jesus,

a cool swallow of water,

grain of sugar on your tongue,

This body,

this body,

is mine.

© Laura A. Lord, 2021


Thank you to MindLoveMisery for the prompt.

Seen

I want to disentangle the image I see of me,

anger parked behind my teeth

like a tire on top of the curb –

the loud, gritty crunch

of asphalt enamel twisting under the weight of it,

crouched on the tip of my tongue,

a tile tiger propped against the wall,

an art deco mural: The Splendor of Rage.

from what you see:

busy weekend grocery store,

a mother with children in tow

directing traffic with tired hands,

reasoning with the list and the purse and the mommy-I-wants and

the squeaking wheel on the cart

that pulls like magic your eyes to mine,

curls of hair, unwashed, unbrushed

batter at yesterday’s mask

and you clear the air.

One long look from the tips of my work boots

to the emptiness in my eyes

and I see a light that could proposition a nun.

I see a light that could be the very death of this life.

I see a light that I know is temptation

and this isn’t a desert,

it’s a goddamn Food Lion.

And I am tempted.

I am wanted.

I am seen.

I am.

© Laura A. Lord, 2021


Thank you to MindLoveMisery for the prompt.

Memory

My memory is red wrapping paper

crinkled at the corners.

It has a tear in the side

where the glittering star

meets the tangle top prints of evergreens

and frosted snow.

My memory is bits and pieces

held together with tape.

It was wrapped by a child –

steaming mug of cocoa by their side

with three ice cubes, melting glaciers

bouncing off the marshmallows.

My memory scratches the backs of my hands –

wooly mitten remembering.

It crackles like a fireplace,

sends a shiver as fingertips across the base of my hair,

hot coal alms pouring from its mouth

into my waiting, empty hands.

© Laura A. Lord, 2020

Thank you to MindLoveMisery for the prompt.

Polo

Grief is a punch in the throat

while my lips are wrapped around my favorite piece of hard candy.

It’s the lump in my throat,

choke as the sugar melts,

pain in my chest,

stitch in my side.

I walked through the doorway.

My eyes touched briefly over the waddled-up blanket on the floor

and for the briefest of moments

I saw your shape –

serene curl of sleep.

You were there.

So, when the moment passed

I felt my heartbeat soft in my ears,

pulse behind my eyes

affixed,

lowered to the spot you were.

I broke.

Grief is a punch in the throat

while I’m carrying a load of laundry.

It’s allowing the clothing to fall,

delicate debris,

at my feet.

It is my husband watching a voyage of pain

crawling up my face.

It is the surprise of falling to my knees,

keening into a white blanket,

wishing it were you.

© Laura A. Lord, 2020

Thank you MindLoveMisery for the prompt.

Garden

I can paint an impassioned trip down memory lane

as sunflowers growing with wild abandon along the windowsill.

I can pluck each charming bloom,

heavy-headed and bent to the dirt.

I can watch petals flutter down,

dark seeds embedding themselves deep for conscious growth.

I can lay my head down on fertile earth

and let the roots you’ve planted rock my memory to sleep.

I can rise as Venus

on the bathroom wall of some

hourly rate hotel room.

I can play my pulse,

straight from my wrist,

bright and loud.

I can drown in the beat

and slice my tender feet

on the glass in your garden.

I can leave a trail –

breadcrumbs to salivate over

and still,

I’d expect you to pull away,

black tires spinning

and vanishing over the horizon.

© Laura A. Lord, 2020

Thank you to MindLoveMisery for their prompt.

The Weeping Mandolin

I am walking circles around our dining room table.

I am folding napkins and placing them,

just so,

beside each setting.

I am all jittery elbows and forced witty banter.

I feel his fingers slide down my shoulder –

some strapless thing I must tug back into place.

I am letting my thoughts skip

dancing along the frayed edge of our tablecloth

like a kitten, distracted, disregarding.

I am going to tell you tonight

that the man who filled this seat at our table,

that let your baby boy sign his name blind

to a contract for five years,

one head injury,

a lifetime of PTSD…

I am going to sit in the seat next to where he sat.

I am going to keep my eyes so low

I can count the grains of salt on the table.

I am going to tell you

I was locked in his bathroom.

That the sound of the metal scraping

as he picked the lock

is etched somewhere in the thin skin at my temple.

I am going to tell you that I can still hear his laugh

when my boyfriend called, trying to find me.

He laughed and I felt it shake through me.

I am going to tell you that the bathroom linoleum

had blue paisley flowers and they were pressed frozen against my cheek.

I am at our dining room table

“You’re going to ruin this for your brother.”

and dinner is getting cold.

“Why are you causing him trouble?”

And I am fragile as the neck of a weeping mandolin –

“You need to tell the truth and stop this.”

but you heard my song and cut my strings.

© Laura A. Lord, 2020

Thank you to MindLoveMisery for the prompt.

Litany

I caught a glimpse of my reflection –

grey and wet,

wavering in a puddle at my feet.

My limbs are carnival glass extended,

reaching for the edges of my shadow,

hanging from the summit of

Mount Reflection,

Mount Brooding,

Mount Who the Fuck Am I Today?

I’m ankle deep in pine needles.

They scratch little red lines in my skin

and sing little litanies in my therapist’s baritone:

“I feel loved and respected when you…”

“I say I love you when I…”

“I feel loved and respected when you…”

“I say I love you when I…”

I am tip-toe walking around the site of the explosion.

I keep getting the heels of my boots caught in the muck

and it pulls pain like lightning bolts through my calves.

It knocks me to my knees

and I’m face-to-face with my reflection again,

lip singing silently:

“I feel loved and respected when you…”

Listen, listen, listen.

“I say I love you when I…”

Sing, sing, sing.

© Laura A. Lord, 2020

Thank you to MindLoveMisery for the prompt.