What You Left Behind

Katrina Kaye

tubes of paint
brushes hardened
by soaking kerosene
three blank canvases
one tinted yellow
the taste of turpentine

a stain from spilt turpentine
spots on the wall from paints
all a different shade of yellow
a patch of carpet hardened
with the oil dripped from canvas
that would dissolve with kerosene

I drank the left over kerosene
mixed it with a shot of turpentine
spat it on canvas
and covered it with paint
my gut burned and hardened
into a shade of greenish yellow

a lighter shade of yellow
when mixed with kerosene
colors hardened
cannot be scrubbed with turpentine
and what is one to do with paints
and blank canvas

I stood your canvas
in the sun’s yellow
squeeze on palate your abandoned paints
dissolved brushes in kerosene
lighten texture with turpentine
wonder how long it took to hardened

After hours colors hardened
an abstract display on canvas
I used turpentine
to correct the yellow
and kerosene
to fix fumbled paints

I hardened beautiful yellow
portrait on canvas, set brushes in kerosene
then threw turpentine to smear paints

Letters

Katrina Kaye

He was never articulate,
educated yet unimaginative.
He knows this.
He knows I know this.

It is not that I expect poetry
over prose. I am the writer
between the two.
It is an old anxiety
only recently resurfaced.

He does not write to me.
Instead he sends me sketches.

One of coffee in a paper cup,
planes in the background through large
thick windows.
One of the rails of a balcony with a
river rushing below.
One of me, lip bite and eyes shining
as I watched him go.

His words are simple,
“I miss you” and “thank you.”

In my letters,
I ask him about the weather,
he sketches the rain on the window.
I ask him if he is keeping busy,
he sketches a sketch of him sketching
within a sketch of him sketching.

I ask him if he’s lonely,
he sketches my face among the rumpled
blankets of morning, sun streaking
from the windows behind me.
He sketches two children playing
invisible violins and reading each other’s palms.

Her ghost does not haunt these pictures,
and I wonder where he keeps her now.

If her wrapped body still
hangs heavy in his hands,
if the slideshow in his mind
still flashes on her crumpled body.
If he still blames himself
for being moments too late.

I know he does.

I ask him if he had forgiven himself,
he sketches houses rebuilt and clear skies.
In a moment of weakness,
I ask him if I will ever see him again.
To this he replies with words,
hand scrawled and sloppy,
“I count the days, my dearest friend.”

 

Bound for Great Things

Katrina Kaye

Chicago wants your hands,
the creases of your knuckles,
the calluses on fingers.
New York is hungry for your history,
a collection of the photographs
your mind took and formed into line
and oil. Boston knows too well
the way you weave your words
onto a canvas.

I am just a girl in New Mexico
sitting by window sill,
bandaging the blisters,
filling journal with words
that belong to the last picture
left on the
your palms.

I am too soaked to continue
to sponge the pain that leaks
over your rim.

You are wasting time among desert,
choking on the dry memories of youth,
attempting to rebuild the house
you burnt to the ground ten years ago.

You have not built a home in my bed,
you are merely hiding there,
tracing eternity on my sheets
pretending to be the boy who left me
at the train station.

They call to reclaim their wayward son,
posing pretty, waiting for your hands
to reclaim their essence.

Atlantic

Katrina Kaye

I always knew
you would be leaving.
The Atlantic has called you
ever since she first saw your hands,
ever since she first
watched you take a picture of her
with the photography of your mind
and place her colors to canvas.

She adores you 
and she is calling.

I am no match to her pull.

She is not alone.
Your mailbox overflows
with eager offers.
Everyone wants a piece of your madness.

Yet, I had you first,
and selfishly want to tether you near.
I want every painting to be a sunrise we watched.
I want every part to be you and me.
I want to wrap myself in
this home we have created.

But there are oceans in your eyes,
and when you look at me
I see crashing waves and city streets.
What can the desert offer such a boy
with a mind for the minute
and hands like yours
always drawing themselves.

I knew it was just a matter of time
before you work your way east,
leave me to the west.

A Fairytale

There is a toxicity that seeps into my spirit–
something already broken by you–
a thief in the night that robs me of sleep
until my nightguard reminds me:

you should not invade my dreams
as you do my daily thoughts.

And yet, during the day, I analyze old messages,
carve a path through past conversations
to see if I can find where those toxic toadstools
released their spores and told me:

“you deserved all this cruelty”
“you will never be enough”

These words are wolf-snarl in the back of my mind.

This is how I always envisioned you when we were children–
but you were never a child, always more beast–
a rabid wolf with teeth bared, saliva dripping
as you spat in my face.

There is no soothe for this kind of burn
and still I seek repair;

I dump buckets of water on a burning house
that strangely resembles our childhood home:
where the wolf lured Red Riding Hood
and told her she was always alone

but fairy tales were never real there

if they were, maybe I would stop trying
to find your most redeeming qualities.

And here is the irony:
if you were anybody else,
I wouldn’t keep following those toadstools
to the wolf’s house;

but we were borne of the same womb,
so even with your teeth bared,
don’t I owe you my survival
and my life?

Didn’t Little Red always owe the wolf
everything for leading her home?

© Maxine L. Peseke, July 2021

Untitled; a poem dedicated to the 215 and still counting children lost to residential schools across Canada

Orange shirts stand guard at the gates:
sentries on either side protecting
the children lost to residential school travesty;
the sun-bright orange shines
like a miracle, rooted amidst tragedy.

A sacred fire burns with tobacco offerings —
peace mixes with the perfume of petrichor;
Summer Solstice is here,
but following a sticky-sweet heat wave,
the clouds grieve and the wind rages

for the unmarked graves of children.

(but is this mine to grieve?)

Elsewhere, I imagine drums beckon thunder with the rain,
and ribbon skirts and jingle dresses flash like lightning;
nature grieves in sync
with First Nations peoples —
and of course: this is their land first.

Their cries bring a miraculous movement
across a country; a so-called sovereign land
built on the bones of babies
whose culture and language
was beaten and raped from their bodies.

(but is this mine to grieve?)

This is the tragedy: that it took too-many years
for children’s souls to escape their dirt-prisons;
the miracle is in the sun-bright orange shirts,
the powerful grief of nature: that raging wind
which calls the children home again.

And the sky opens: the lightning flashes, the thunder crashes;
every sound above is a child crying —
a parent, sister, brother, friend… sighing
a breath of hopeful miraculous relief
that their children will finally be free.

(we should all be grieving.)

Children watch fireworks over the Kebesquasheshing River in Chapleau;
Canada Day 2021

© Maxine L. Peseke, June 2021
with special thanks to Megan Moses for supplying her insight, kind corrections, and experience while raising her children to be strong in their culture, and for being such a dear friend.

Miracle Walk

Emily Bjustrom

In the twelfth mile,
well after we were lost and found ourselves again,
we sit on a fallen log to think
about what it meant to get so seriously lost.

The scent of damp sweet grass hangs,
the heavy heads of wild iris nod in the limp breeze.

It’s important to know your limits, I say,
Some people never learn them, you say.

Time passes
the leaves sing like water
the birds rush in the trees.

Sometimes, I say, embarrassed, I wake up and watch the tendons in the back of my hands as I move my fingers and I say to myself I am a delicate machine.

You practice the motion and smile.

The knowing and sharing of a too honest secret is a miracle.
My good legs that carried me well past the long hike I’d intended-
a miracle to tie the body to the soul.

“I would like to be a bridge”
I announce to my students.
They know me and understand.
Our delicate minds clasped, spanning the divide
a miracle of growth and recognition.

I tell you that God has spoken to me
through the new leaves of a once dead houseplant-
I have been reminded that not all growth happens on the surface,
my love and tender care has not been wasted.
It worked!

God has asked me for my patience, I say.
You don’t laugh, as you might,
but tell me God speaks
when we need to hear Him.

Lighthouse

Katrina Kaye

Every blink
of your eyes

is a sunrise at sixteen,
when you told me

you loved me
and we watched the

sun eat the black.
Fifteen years later

you cling to me,
and I let you.

With each kiss
I promise

safe harbor,
with each touch

I seek to steer
your path.

I am
no beacon.

I am easily lost
to the night,

unable to guide
ships led astray.

My hands cannot
retain heat,

cannot heal or
offer cure from pain.

Yet, there is
a light in me

that still hopes I can
lead you home.

 

Watercolor painting of North Carolina lighthouse Original painting and fine art proofs available at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/RFoxWatercolors

Not just one blessing…

Gina Marselle

Each morning a new bloom
truly more vibrant than purple or pink,
and I appreciation this God-given joy.

Ungodly-100-degree-July-days defy any garden,
even this petunia in a blue pot struggles
reaches for water, sips dew drops with desperation
just to survive.

I sip morning coffee
and water the garden
before any heat edges over the land--

wild birds sing, eat the sunflower seed,
my dog barks as neighbors walk down the alley.

I watch in the quiet as the sun steps over the Sandias. 
Marveling at this wonder a billion years old--
and count my blessings with each flower.
There is not just one bloom-- 
but 20-30 blessings opening in ernest. 

Tears spring to my eyes because without theses blooms
my morning is empty, my heart is broken
from every yesterday's pain. 
Images by Gina Marselle

In the Ballpark

By Emily G. Bjustrom

The air smells of popcorn and spilled beer
The concrete floor sticky
The air balmy and cool
Were we in love then?

There’s something dishonest in the way I’ve dressed myself
Flattened out my curls
No jacket
Who was I pretending to be?

You look like yourself, eyes lighted
Exactly where you want to be.

Green collapsible seats, open like cheering mouths
Hopeful as their occupants,
Drunk and slurry behind, they jeer against us for the home team.

A summer ball game, a blue sky
joy palpable as water in the air

The bitter taste of a pregame beer lingers in the back of my throat.
Did you love me then?