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.

Break Through

They call it breakthrough bleeding –

There’s a leak in our bathroom sink
and I’ve had a fan blowing for two days,
as my aunt’s fancy kitchen towels brine in musty water.
It blows a brisk breeze on my bare calves –
my skirt billowing out around my ankles,
puddled on the floor,
with my berserk little hormones
borrowing into the floor under my feet.
My breasts hang low and drag across
the peel and stick tile
until my bloodshot eyes finally focus
and find the bleak little ray of light –
shining simply because it’s switched on.

They call it breakthrough bleeding
and I know it means I’ve lost you somewhere in this dilapidated bathroom.
You have scattered your cells across the pad floating,
there,
on the floor between my feet.

They call it breakthrough bleeding,
but it’s really a leak
and the floor’s gone soggy,
so one wrong move
and I’m tumbling down with you.
Break.
Through.

© Laura A. Lord, September 2018


Thank you to MindLoveMisery’sMenagerie for their prompt.

When You Chose Plastic Over Me

The first time I left you alone you were lying milk-drunk
against the soft flesh of my mother’s chest.
I had taken one of the samples from the changing table,
its color too bright yellow,
its compact shape too round,
its label screaming epitaphs,
“More DHA!”
“Better for brain development!”
“Easy on sensitive stomachs!”

I felt the pale mounds under my baggy, frumpy tee –
two sponges, ripe with nerves.
I showed my mother how to prepare the formula.
I thought briefly about staying.
I thought briefly about canceling my appointment.
I thought briefly about throwing my breast pump
and every failed attempt along with it
right out the broad bay window out front.
I focused instead on restraint.

And five hours later,
when my breasts roared with leonine intensity
and solitary arms ached to feel your weight in them,
I lifted you to me,
nuzzled you close,
and you turned

away.

© Laura A. Lord, September 2018


Thank you to MindLoveMisery’sMenagerie for their prompt.

Magic Trick

I learned early to avoid your gaze.
Survival comes from looking down at my feet,
amplifying every stretch of my ankle,
angling my body to the side,
as if the mere act of shifting myself for you
would give you enough space to ignore my existence.
I would agonize over my bangs,
drag them down to cover light, almond eyes.
Hiding in plain sight was always an arduous process.
I used my skin, an atypical artifice, as a Halloween mask
and abracadabra –
I disappeared.

© Laura A. Lord, September 2018


Thank you to MindLoveMisery’sMenagerie for their prompt.

Blink

The average human being blinks 28,800 times a day.
Supposedly, it’s more often than we need to.
Supposedly, we do it so much, because it provides a mental break.
Supposedly, blinking is how we refresh, reboot, rest.
But there you are.
You have implanted yourself in my offscreen movie.
You’ve folded into the material of my mind,
become part of my neurochemistry,
so that with every rapid blink of my eyes
I see your face.
I see your face,
streaked as an amaryllis.
I see your face,
like an escapist from your body,
peeking out from the broken beast.
My memory is an old black and white film
and I keep playing the sequence over and over,
like I’m pulling through the negatives of film I never want to see in print.
I drove to the gas station as if nothing untoward had happened,
as if you hadn’t changed the dynamic of my brain,
as if I the mud and blood and gas and debris stuck to my shoes was part of the actual design,
as if you weren’t in my sock and I wasn’t going to have to throw all my clothes away when I got home.
My car was on ‘E’
and when the mellow scent of gas hit me,
floating in a translucent cloud above the pump
I hit my knees
vomit sliding up my throat
and I blinked and blinked and blinked.

© Laura A. Lord, 2018


Thank you to Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie for their prompt.

Make Me

I don’t need fragile smoke whispers
slipping past my eyelashes
and hanging as beads of sweat at the hollow of my neck.
No, darling,
I have forgotten who I am.
I need the molten mocha of your eyes
to burn through the butterflies of doubt.
I need pupils dilated,
heavy breathing,
sounds-like-someone’s-breaking-me
kinda burning.
I need you close as ivy, grasping on the legs of my pale skinned veranda.
I am a foreigner in my own skin
and I don’t need your swaying, sultry song.
I need you to scream my name into the back of my throat.
Make me remember
who I am.
Make me.

© Laura A. Lord, 2018


Thank you to Mindlovemiserysmenagerie for your prompt 🙂

Lightbulb

Sometime, in the damp, dusky hours before dawn
you laid your thick fingered hand on the glass
and watched your breath collect in little blossoms of clouds.
You traced around the wings of a long-dead, summer fly
trapped between the screen and the door,
and with a swipe of your palm
you vanquished the sky-scape you had created
and wiped your wet hands on your flannel shirt.

Compulsion led you to doing and undoing –
each little black button a snapshot of your mutation.
In and out, in and out.
Your brain building the city it would roam today
and each slip of your heavy fingers was a head-on collision, right into the wall

and it left you –
BOOM –
standing there at the crossroads of
Memory and Language.
Your tongue filling your mouth,
belting out a lonely tune
against the back of your teeth.
Your mind a candle in a parade –
lit and bright,
flickering and fading,
gasping at the air as the winter wind
pushed and shoved
and swept you up off your feet.

I wanted to safeguard your flame,
to carry you in your disease –
like knowing the name would make speaking it easier.
Like if you knew the date of today
or the words on your cereal box
or who the man in the bathroom mirror was staring back at you,
that you’d suddenly evolve
from candle to lightbulb.
You’d burn brighter,
steadier
and we could just flip you on
whenever we wanted you back.

© Laura A. Lord, 2018


Written in response to the prompts at The Beacon and Mindlovemisery’sMenagerie.

The Boy

The porcelain sink gurgles when the water splashes
and slips from the ends of my fingers
down the drain.

It has a drowsy drip
that echoes around this room
with its green wallpaper
and too bright pink roses peeling where they meet the ceiling.

There is a supple bend in the way you walk now,
as if someone has slipped in unnoticed
and upset the balance of your spine,
has stolen a single vertebrae
and left you unspooling out
vomiting the threads of all you were
across the yellowed tile of this bathroom floor.

The box they have brought to bury your son in
is too small and too white and
it shines so clean by the alter that I think you have not touched it.

I cannot walk down the aisle.
I cannot seem to leave this stall
and I stare at your white shoes with the little kitten heel
and the way your toes are pointed in at one another,
as if they were in conversation about the trip they must make –
down the aisle,
across the grass,
to the place where the green turf is rolled out
and the small mound of dirt is fermenting in the sun.

It is too bright today to bury a boy,
and so we will stay in this stall
and hide under the bright fluorescent lights.
We will stay here, where your shoes are all I can see
and where there is nothing more
than a drowsy drip in a porcelain sink
and roses peeling from the ceiling.

© Laura A. Lord, The Boy, 2016


The recent loss of that poor child in Florida has reminded me of a funeral I went to years ago. A different child, a different place, a whole different scenario of loss, but still…a loss.