what was meant to be sprouted from scarlet, this: your exhortation to stop picking at scabs, the crusted-over crimson of searching fingers. I meant it to be about the blood of history, all sticky rust and slave-set-free-catharsis, set outside train station where truth is buried under a clouded highway overpass and redemption pulls away with a groaning of unoiled engines. But time taps out what it will, and I have a talent for scars. Sigh, and sigh. Let’s, then, try to keep our own story from becoming pock-marked & pot-holed: the burial-ground-turned-parking-lot of that old hospital where I first learned to stitch (with catgut in formalin-fumed skins of forever), will wait.
Written after a stroll through what is called “Hell’s half-acre,” which encompasses archaeological sites for Lumpkin’s slave jail, burial grounds and city gallows. The I-95 overpass, Main Street Station, and parking lots for students and employees of the Medical College of Virginia (where I did first learn to suture) all overlap/border the sites. Linked in for Five-Sentence Fiction with the prompt “scarlet.” Could we call this my first attempt at flash, do you think?
the notebook i burned that day i learned hate:
i wish i had those words again.
the one long coat i’ll never wear
and the books i’ll never sell, that sit damply expiring
in the back of the closet beside this box
(since they don’t all fit).
the nights you spend alone, every
one folded tight like an unused rain slicker.
my mother’s wedding ring.
my father’s Saint Christopher, the one
he wore for years after they told his sixteen-year-old self
he had a fourteen-percent-chance.
the Saint Jude i lit for the ones who didn’t, their names
melded to the bottom now.
all the poems i write but that no-one can see, and this one,
that picture frame she threw at me, before she could throw it:
those hours picking glass shards from skin i will
never get back.
there is the subtlest of breezes from full-flung windows where the world
comes in, dragging its day-end noises: settling birds, slowing traffic.
It smells still of dark coffee & morning-baked bread. someone
coughs. the last sighs of light reflect against glass and chrome;
shadows pool between the cobbles. a scrape of chairs as this place
slowly empties, we the dregs of what had been an over-full cup.
my wine is sweeter with every
a new green pulses lamplit;
last lip-stained-glass kiss.
she woke up seeing sirens,
her spirit cramped and moist and
crawling like ants
flat across a sticky weathered floor, the
heat sickness of a summer night’s
shivery poison leaving sweat tracks
on citrus-scented skin: blood
oranges and melted amber in
a single, wax-draped dream.