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 🙂

15 Minutes

This was probably one of the hardest prompts I’ve ever had to do. The prompt asked for us to time ourselves for 15 minutes and write down every memory we could think of. The idea was to put ourselves in the shoes of the Hawaiian civilians who thought they only had 15 minutes left before the missile hit. What would we remember from our lives in 15 minutes?

I can honestly say I started out writing like complete sentences, but towards the end as I watched the clock tick down beside me I felt very panicked. There was no way I could get it all out. I literally started to just think of names, those people’s faces flashing in my mind. I couldn’t even place the memories, just that it was that person. I didn’t even realize I was crying while writing most of this until the end. If you have a chance to participate in this, please do. You can find the prompt here at The Beacon.


I had written “I love you” on an orange Easter egg and asked Mak to go find the orange egg in the fridge. There were too many orange ones and it took him forever to find it. It was the first time I’d told him I loved him.
When they finally handed me Dallas after her birth when they’d finally gotten her breathing straight.
I counted her fingers and rubbed her head.
She had a green and white and red knitted Christmas hat and dark hair.
When they laid Dude on my belly after birth and he was purple and quiet.
When he raised his head and looked around in the bath at the hospital.
When I held Tommy after my c-section and I was still shaking so hard I thought I would drop him
When Mak’s dad died and I saw him cry
When the hospice nurse told us my grandfather was dying and my dad cried
When we buried my grandfather and a woman gave me an old picture of his grandparents
When we buried my grandmother
I had to wash in the sink at the state park and my hair was bleached blond and I walked to her funeral
Dallas’ little blue dress that matched her eyes
My first date with Mak we met at Food Lion and got steaks
When I walked down the aisle to Papa Roach’s Not Strong Enough and could hear my dad crying
I danced with Mak at our wedding
I danced with my brother at my wedding and cried
When my brother came home from Afghanistan and I saw him get off the plane
When my dad put me on the school bus and he had a red truck and white shorts
Laying in the grass with Gary late into the morning and talking and smoking cigarettes
My dad making jokes when I was in labor with Dude
When Gary and I got back together and made love in the shower
Mak and I making love on the porch before he left for California
Mak making love to me for the first time after my surgery
When I miscarried at the hospital and Mak couldn’t get up from his chair
Giving birth to the twins
Holding baby girl before we left the hospital
Seeing Gloria in the hospital holding Tommy
Letting Uncle Eddie meet Tommy in the nursing home – he wore a white shirt and was sitting in the common room
Uncle Eddie taking Dallas to church on Sundays
Wrestling with Dude
Dallas and Harley in their Easter dresses
Mak and Dude in the window looking outside
Daddy and I at the flea market when I met a guy off some online site and he was teasing me about him
Meeting a guy named Creed online and thinking I was in love
Riding rollercoasters with Mak until we had headaches
Swimming with Mak when I was pregnant with the twins at the hotel
Walking away from my grandfather at the nursing home for the last time, he had on a white shirt and blue plaid pj pants
Eating peach ice cream with my Poppop and his Yorkie in the car
Sleeping in the bed with Shelby
Letting Dude sleep in our bed when Mak worked nights
Getting my ears pierced with mom – Justin teased her and said she was too old for two holes in her ears
Going dancing with Justin and laughing while he pulled over to pee on the wall of a bank
Hugging my brother when he left for the military
Seeing Matt in the casket
Daddy taking silly pictures with me before graduation
Mommom’s chocolate fudge and potato candy
Playing in my grandparent’s basement
Sitting on my grandmother’s bed late at night and talking
Mommon in her red recliner
The smell of my dad’s hands when he smoked
The way Mak smells when he gets back from a bike ride
The feel of Mak’s long hair
Dallas’ freckles
Tommy’s dimples
Tommy’s dark eyes
Dude’s eyes – just like mine
White Shoulders
Dude’s smile
Dallas’ birthmark
Tommy saying I’m gonna boop it
The day Mak adopted Dallas and Dude
Mak
Showering with Mak
Lying in his arms after sex
Yeah you’re cool and all
Mak
Mak

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.