A New Dress

I don’t want a new dress, I said

My mother plucked from her mouth ninetynine pins.

I suppose there are plenty, she said, girls of ten

Who would be glad to have a new dress. 

Snip-snip. Snip-snip. The cold scissors

Ate quickly as my white rabbit round my arm.

She won’t speak to me if I have a new dress!

My feet rattled on the kitchen floor.

How can I fit you if you won’t stand still?

My tears made a map of Australia

On the sofa cushion, from the hot center

My friend’s eyes flashed, fierce as embers.

She would not speak to me, perhaps ever again.

She would paralyze me with one piercing look.

I’d rather have my friend than a new dress!

My mother wouldn’t understand, my grownup mother

Whose grasshopper thimble winked at the sun

And whose laughter was made by small waves

Rearranging seashells on Australia’s shore.

Ruth Dallas, New Zealand



Per Fumum

My mother became an ornithologist

when the grackle tumbled through barbecue smoke

and fell at her feet. Soon she learned

why singers cage birds; it can take weeks

to memorize a melody

the first days lost as they mope

and warble a friendless note,

the same tone every animal memorizes

hours into breathing. It’s a note

a cologne would emit if the bottle was struck

while something mystical was aligned

with something even more mystical

but farther away. My father was an astronomer

for forty minutes in a row

the first time a bus took us so far

from streetlights he could point out constellations

that may or may not have been Draco,

Orion, Aquila, or Crux.

When they faded I resented the sun’s excess,

a combination of fires I couldn’t smell.

The first chemist was a perfumer

whose combinations, brushed

against pulse points, were unlocked

by quickening blood. From stolen perfumes

I concocted my personal toxin.

It was no more deadly than as much water

to any creature the size of a roach. I grew suspicious

of my plate and lighter Bunsen burner,

the tiny vials accumulating in my closet.

I was a chemist for months

before I learned the difference

between poisoned and drowned.

When my bed caught fire

it smelled like a garden.


–by Jamaal May

Mommie Dearest

My baby cries but I don’t answer when she calls.

Too lost in my thoughts to adhere to her wails, her needs. Her hunger feeds my sorrow as I contemplate every new day. I am not enough. These arms weren’t meant to cradle, to hold, they’ve barely molded the life I’ve wanted to live. How did I end up here? She continues to cry, pleading for me. Her hollering like knives as they dig into the skin on my back, reminding me of every night I spent on my back. I swim through those memories trying to pinpoint what I would’ve done differently.

My baby cries, but I don’t answer when she calls.

Darkness falls in between the spaces of her pudgy fingers as she flails. Wildly, she hurtles her wails for mommy into the air. I want to tend to those screams, but sit seems my thoughts consume most of my time. I cry to the night as if it might know that I don’t have the slightest idea of how to are for my child. Mother moon maybe you could take her because my arms aren’t strong enough to cradle, breasts aren’t experienced enough to nurse. My voice doesn’t know lullabys, or how to laugh with children. I feel a tinge of impatience, wearing thin. The hollering, so sharp in pitch, that its like a dagger dragged across my skin. This invisible umbilical thrown around the neck, so close, I feel I may choke. Is no one else listening? Too busy shouting that if I didn’t want a kid I shouldn’t have gotten pregnant then. Too busy with their slicing judgments, cutting into my womb. This baby deserves more than the broken spirit and resentment. The guilt and torment. The melancholy. What if she ends up just like her mother? Hunger feeds the need for urgency as I am stuck contemplating tomorrow. Her future, for which I am responsible.

Would she grow up happy? The worries, the apologies, the missed time, the ‘daddy’s not here because’s. I confide all these thoughts to you when my baby cries–
I thought I told you to stop crying–
is all I can manage to answer.

Nightstands Sing

on the nightstand are three empty shot glasses

she reaches across a squeaky mattress

to pour herself another

and another

until the levees break

such a cliché she thinks

slamming down a few more drinks

kicking the animal twisting in her covers

can you get out now

i prefer to sleep alone

he rolls onto his back, grabs his sneaks to leave

she tries to cuddle up with her sheets

but they smell of him

Throwing on some clothes

she stumbles onto the streets

as the clock reads 4am

the flood gates open

singing, voice booming with lightening

so loud

she doesn’t even realize she’s screaming

the city deaf blind and dumb to her pain

wandering, lusting for connection

spiraling into a migraine

she falls into a tricky building

enraged she kisses her forehead to the bricks

They call her gorgeous

They call her brown eyes and silk for how she feels

in that moment she might’ve wanted to die

but she stopped short of an concussion

banging her head like percussion

shook a few screws loose

nameless she couldn’t

remember her address

just this lingering scent of a boy’s shirt


she searched for him long gone

passed out on a park lawn

caked in her own juices

found by the  day

bathed in sunlight

knowing she was alone now

more than ever

They call her sugar and grit

They call her baby and Ms. Independent

And she’s got children somewhere

that should call her mother

Mom’s Roses

images (8)Forces of Zeus and Hera couldn’t stop this tragedy

She felt the stars

Exhilaration of fast cars

excitements of a plane crash, stereo blast

she hung her hair down

her drink up

always looking for her next cup

9 months with me must have caused withdraws

Now she lay passed out on the floor

The angry, the mad in me hadn’t even begun to subside

When the bottle hit her lips

The one I tried to hide

Here she’ll lay, still cold

and the day grows old

weary of staring at the figure on the tile

Gatorade made to fuel her adrenaline

has become her death regimen

as it stained the floor under her dead hands

her blood was thicker than water

thinner than her liquor

Will my will be strong enough to not consider following in her footsteps

My heart is racing, quick reps

I can’t stop the beating

my morals are eating my mind away


My mom was foolish, it will never happen to me

no hospitals hangovers headaches institutions

My life won’t be ruined by this dream

Retreat from the reality that surrounds me

My mom is dead and it haunts me

As Banquo is to Macbeth, she taunts me

Laying on the floor, sitting in his chair

He’s there, she’s there

Can’t you see can’t you see

it’s all on me it’s all on me

it’s my fault im wrong

I should turn and walk away from her addictive Gatorade

But it will take away the pain

Though it takes me to a place

strange aesthetic plane

I’m in a sliver between Earth and space, closer to her heaven

Did i commit a deadly seven?

Maybe two or three because I envy her gluttony towards the bottle

Every swallow I take from the first sip leaves me hollow

On the tile here i lie

my flower withered and died

The world looks so tall and i feel so small

from this angle on the floor

is this what she saw before her guilty spirit soared, convicted

I her soul’s witness

lived the life i testified against

criticized it, realize that

I’m the victim, victimized by her lies

Why didn’t she rise and get up at the very least

All I want is peace

The sound of her hitting the ground to cease.download (1)