Tag Archives: childhood

At Midnight

ciggarete_2

Daddy built a fort in the living

room out of cigarette ash and

empty beer bottles while I

kept busy sweeping up the soot.

 

I tasted it once, licked an

index finger and dragged it

across my salmon tongue

in the shape of a crucifix –

it was thick and earthy,

it hid between my teeth and

told me stories while I slept.

 

Mommy poured another glass

of iced tea on our front step and

exchanged gossip like rubies

with our next door neighbor.

 

I hopscotched over purple

crooked numbers on our

pavement, stared up at the

clouds that watched me overhead –

at six the streetlights would kick

on and I’d hide between their yellow

while I waited to be whistled inside.

 

At midnight I was in bed carving

holes in my mattress by moonlight:

one for the ash,

one for a bottle,

one for the rubies.

 

I smoothed down

the pink sheets and dreamed.

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Decoding

 

I remember my grandmother’s house

as a pile of amber ashes I’ve been sifting

through since birth. I’d cup some in my hands

like cool water, lace up my insides then knife all

the seams in one breath, watch them drift to

the rug like black snow and begin to cool.

 

I’d wade under the rusted aluminum overhang

with my father, peek through faded pink

lace curtains on the windows. She’d offer me a Sprite,

I’d sit on a foot stool in the basement and stare at

old photos while she enlisted him to help her

navigate the present, run an errand or two.

 

He always looked ready to run, my father,

seated on the corner of a chair with his hands

folded in his lap. Every visit I’d sweep some ashes

into my pocket, take them home and

press them in my diary until I had enough

to decode the tension in my shoulders, the stones in my chest.

 

I studied the message for days, ran

my fingers over its veins. I took

our sharpest kitchen knife to the pages

and threw a party with the white-lined

confetti, then I cupped some in my hands

like cool water, swallowed every piece and cried.

 

 

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PREORDER NOW – Unkept, a novel by Ericka Clay

Hi, friends! I wanted to pass along an epic opportunity for those of you who own a Kindle. My friend and fellow booze lover Ericka Clay has a novel coming out! Preorder your Kindle copy of Unkept now, and it will automatically be delivered to your Kindle on March 2nd.

Via www.erickaclay.com:

Ericka Clay is a published novelist represented by Robyn Russell and the author of Unkept.

She’s also a major foodie, yoga newbie, overall health nut and the founding editor of Tipsy Lit.”

Book description, via www.amazon.com:

“As the live-in manager at her father’s funeral home in Burling Gates, Missouri, Vienna Oaks has succumbed to the mediocrity and abject loneliness of her life.  Her days are suspended between the mundane and the misery of her clients’ throttling grief, of changing light bulbs, and encountering strangers as bereft as she. But after orchestrating the funeral for a little boy named Parker prompts a severe panic attack, she finds herself at a personal crossroads in which she is forced to confront the pregnancy she’s been hiding, her childhood nemesis, the boy she never stopped loving, and the deep-seated secret surrounding her mother’s death more than a decade before.

In another part of town, Heather Turnbull has just learned from her estranged father that her mother, a lifelong recluse, has died.  When making arrangements for her funeral, Heather chooses Oaks Family Funeral home, where she comes face to face with Vienna – the woman she tortured throughout grade school, the woman who has recently had an affair with her husband.

Together, Vienna and Heather navigate through a makeshift friendship born of circumstance and devised to assuage their ambivalence towards motherhood and their tenuous relationship with reality, discovering, in tandem, the art of forgiveness and the will to go on.

With humor and poignancy, Ericka Clay’s debut novel, Unkept, explores the thorny landscape of childhood trauma and the ferocious politics between little girls — and the adults they become.”

Click here to order your Kindle version of Unkept today!

xo,

Nicole Marie

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girl

 

girl headed

down south

to forget

girl headed down south

with a crushed pack

of cigarettes

and a warm bottle

of water from her

mother’s kitchen tap

 

girl used to

catch fireflies

with those hands

girl used to quiet

laughter with those hands

now they’re

soft as the

floorboards

in her uncle’s bedroom

 

girl thumbs it

halfway to

nowhere

shoulder to

shoulder

with somebody

in the hot

cab of a pickup

truck

 

girl lets

her eyes close

for a moment

for an hour

girl is still while his

hand swears in

on her thigh

she pays him

in her sleep

 

girl is smoking

her last cigarette

on a park bench

girl is waving goodbye

to him

her uncle’s bedroom floor

the last drop from

mother’s kitchen tap

the stale life on her tongue

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where loneliness begins

 

I remember drab linoleum

like a jaded family reunion

 

in muggy midsummer there are

flies making figure eights

over the casserole

 

that place is where

my loneliness begins.

 

a fan in the corner

is humming dust bunny confetti

around my bedroom

 

occasionally I hear

a lock turn over

 

the wood is splintered

at the bottom of my door

 

they won’t believe me

 

but it’s louder than

my songs

that rattle paper walls

like sudden cracks of thunder.

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The Forest

ages ago she’d shape

grand predictions

in the flour snow

her mother poured out

onto the kitchen counter,

 

so ready was she for

the screaming loss of

the world to pack

sand between her ears

 

she plotted

by a dulling flashlight

in a

nylon fort

on her mattress boat,

waded excitedly in a

toy box cauldron

stuffed with undressed dollies,

 

she was studying the future.

 

her eyes shifted like a prisoner’s

from the single mesh window

out into her bedroom

that was switching landscapes

purple to honest brown, to realness

 

take it back she sang, frantic

she tried to scotch tape

the

flimsy doorway

but the truth kept coming in

 

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From Birth

Her father was raised

on a fire licked stage

of concrete and

streetlight discipline;

Hail Mary was stuffed in

dirt caked boots,

for nights when

only milk and potatoes

sat like church folk

on the dinner table.

 

Her mother worshipped

neon lights,

cream based vanity,

sex in lace and satin;

skin on skin

was tactless youth,

not nine months

of crater weight

in tight jeans,

tight skin.

 

From birth she

couldn’t quite explain

those empty hallway feelings,

like still air in a hurricane;

her smile spread

as thin as her ankles,

maybe as thin as

her own

more than fragile wonderment

strung up in the hallway.

 

Life twisted through seasons

of apple pie and

fragile temperaments

wading in the boiling pot;

freedom was

nothing more than

elbows on a windowsill

or else the impossible genius,

breathing deep and blowing

starlight on the doorstep.

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these years are all we have

 

there are years

.                    decades maybe 

tucked messily between

small hands and

scarred hearts.

.                                    questionable bits of time

for abandoning the

rules buried in skin.

 

for  unhinging

for

.                                    screaming at the

wind.

 

collect skeleton keys

in a jeans pocket

unlock every door you’d

.                                  peeked under, cheek to the

cold floor.

 

give your best impersonation 

.                        of every romance

you’d widened your eyes

.                                    in awe of.

bury your face in

.                someone else’s pillowcase

breathe deep,

.                   it’s all parts

of you now.

 

face the mirror

trace every                imperfection 

scribble them down and

light a match

this is called

owning your

self.

 

twist up your

very own

 

down

.                ward

spiral 

 

it’s your

only chance.

 

because these years

.             decades maybe

are all we have

to drip concrete

over

.                 who we are.

 

 

 

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for a moment, the earth was still.

Before she had hips,

the world was already

rolling                                               away from her.

 

By the time she was fifteen

the soles of her feet were

worn as her grandmother’s hands,

cracked into         minuscule maps

of paths she shouldn’t have known.

The shelves were not yet

draped in dust.

 

She reached out her fingers

in a              years           long vapor

of deciphering the lands

on her skin.

She followed the sky just to

see where it went,

eyeless in a rain storm

was no different than here.

 

Breathless from the

chasing

she’d grown old as the

earth.

Grasping at stones

she lay in the grass,

scouring nonsensical

geography

from her feet.

 

Unable to stand

she sunk

knees and elbows

into the damp beneath her.

The wind paused to

dress her and

for a moment,                  the earth was still.

 

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Rock, Rock, Zoom, Zoom.

As a kid, I was lucky enough to be riding on the coattails of the days when kids were still forced by their parents to play outside, riding bikes and scraping their knees on the pavement like kids should, not sitting on their asses with cheesy fingers, playing Grand Theft Auto. (I still love me some GTA, though.) But when five hours of sidewalk chalk and street hockey started to get boring, we’d begin to sniff out other cheap thrills like crossing the streets we were told never to cross, playing in dangerous construction zones, or our very favorite: Knock, Knock, Zoom, Zoom.

Little jerks. I love it.

Maybe my love of running has its roots in banging obnoxiously on my neighbors’ screen doors at eight years old, then diving behind cars or trash cans before they managed to see me. The look on that lady’s face when she answers and sees NO ONE on her stoop?! The excitement of it all just tore us to pieces. We were rebels, magicians, the stealthiest of ninjas. We’d do this until the sun went down, or until we were caught and someone told our moms. Then it was inside, where my best friend and I would send Morse Code messages to each other via knocks on the wall between our row-home bedrooms. There was always tomorrow.

A few houses down lived my best friend’s grandmother. She was a bitter old biddy, and I don’t recall ever seeing her anywhere but in the space she allowed for herself to pop her head out of the screen door on her front step, yelling at the neighborhood children for who knows what. Every word always sounded like it’d be her last. I won’t mention her real name here, but a nickname I favored instead:

How'd you like to see THIS peering down at you from a city doorway?

How’d you like to see THIS peering down at you from a city doorway?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s right, everyone. I lived on the same small street as the Crypt Keeper‘s twin sister. And while equally terrifying in appearance, she wasn’t nearly as funny as he was. Nor did she tell any good scary stories. Once, when our cat got into her yard, she shouted angrily down the alleyway:

“If your cat gets into my yard again, I’ll kill it!”

Another time she popped her bony bobble head out of that door and yelled:

“You’re fat!”

So while every other house was gifted with simple knocks from the sticky fists of annoying children, Crypt Keeper’s twin sister got the special treatment – rocks thrown at her home. Ten points if you make a dent! (When her own grandchildren are helping you throw mini boulders at her house, what does that say about her exactly?)

I’m not necessarily proud of the fact that I was a snot-nosed little brat, but I still stand by two things:

1.) Knock, Knock, Zoom, Zoom was fun.

2.) Crypt Keeper’s sis deserved those rocks on her doorstep.

What obnoxious things did you do as a child? Were there any mean neighbors you chose to terrorize in a special way? 

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