Saturday 30 September 2017

Deconstructing Doris
by Pam Munter
Note: As with most historical fiction, the people in this story are real. Many of the situations, however, are wholly imagined. This is one of the stories in a series that was inspired by the lives of Hollywood legends.

She was feeding the dogs in the cook’s kitchen when she heard the distinctive roar of his Porsche breaching the silence as it pulled up in the circular driveway in front of the contemporary house on Crescent Drive in Beverly Hills. She hurried to the front door, opened it and walked to the car to see Terry’s grim face.
            “Mom, he did it. You’re dead broke.” He shifted his feet and frowned. “And you owe the IRS, too. He took it all.”
            Doris Day never expected to hear those words, not in her worst dreams, and certainly not from her son. She stared into his eyes for a minute, hoping for a disclaimer, a joking response, anything to mitigate the shock.
            “But how…”
            “I don’t know yet. But it looks like they’ve been screwing you over for a long time.”
            “They? Jerry and Marty?” She had barely spoken Marty’s name since his death the year before. She had often thought back to when they met almost 20 years earlier. She had signed a contract with Warner Bros. but when she met agent Marty Melcher at a party at Johnny Mercer’s house, he convinced her they weren’t paying her what she was worth. Within weeks, they were in bed together, personally and professionally.
            Over the years, he had guided her career, her life really. He was the caring Svengali she never had, someone who loved and protected her from the show business sharks. It didn’t bother her that he jumped aboard as an Executive Producer on her films when he didn’t do a thing but collect his check. She even trusted his opinion about what she should record. Her precedent-shattering triumph at having been named among the top ten box office stars for ten consecutive years told her he had done a wonderful job. She knew people didn’t like him, considering him a bossy moocher, a guy who needed to order people around. When she heard someone on one of her movie sets call him Farty Belcher she laughed in spite of herself. The relationship had always been one in which he made all the decisions. She didn’t care so long as the money and movie parts kept rolling in and she could keep recording at Columbia—her favorite place to be. At least he didn’t beat her like Terry’s father did. And he obviously wasn’t gay like her second husband. Why couldn’t she get this right? God knows, she had enough practice.
            All those years on the road with the band on the bus, men grabbing her, teasing her, trying to get her into bed. Sure, she enjoyed some of it but what had it cost her along the way? When Marty came along, he was strong and sure and just what she needed. She was relieved and grateful. To succeed in the business, she had left the raising of her only son to her mother. Having Marty coming into her life as a co-parent gave her a sense of the family stability she hadn’t experienced since her early childhood. They were all one family now.
            She had trusted him. Loved him, at least early on. He and Terry didn’t get along, she knew that. But he had adopted Terry when the kid was young, an angry and rebellious adolescent. It was what Marty had wanted. Looking back on it now, she could see that it gave her new husband more leverage over her. For Doris, though, it solved the ache. There were times when the guilt about leaving Terry behind was almost unbearable. Marty was a solution to an empty heart in several ways.

            “You were right about him, Terry. I didn’t believe you.”
            “His hitting me was nothing compared to what he has done to you. I want to kill him.”
            “Yeah.” She was still trying to put this together. Could Terry be wrong? She knew he was back into drugs again, hanging with dopers. She wondered about the influence of his new girlfriend, too.
            “It’ll take a while to figure out how much is involved.” Terry’s jaw crackled with tension. “Could be as much as twenty-thirty million. Maybe more.”
            The money is gone? How could they have afforded this posh home, then? The beach house? She had never wanted for anything. Marty made sure of that.
            “Wait a minute. He hit you?”
            “Yeah. Lots of times.”
            Her mouth fell open. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
            “You were never there when it happened. You were always working. It wasn’t your fault.” She looked for a shadow of resentment in his broad, open face so much like hers, and saw none.
            “Oh, God, I’m so sorry.” She reached out and hugged him but the emotions could no longer be contained.
            Doris ran into the house and threw herself into the soft confines of the king-sized bed and started to weep. Without thinking, she drew closer to the four spaniels nearly buried in the middle of the comforter. Thank God for them, she thought. She didn’t want to think about Terry being abused but, if she were honest with herself, she never wanted to hear anything negative about anything. She was busy working—at being a perfect performer, a perfect person. Everybody thought she was. Sometimes, even she thought so. In spite of Marty’s bellicose ways, she knew she was loved by the people she worked with, by those who worked for her and even more by her fans. How could this happen?
            Reaching for the Kleenex, she smelled the sweetness of the gardenias floating in the bowl next to the bed. Dear Barry had sent the flowers just the day before. Barry was a sweet man, not
at all like the others. When she’d finished dining at the restaurant where he worked as a maĆ®tre ‘d, he would bag up leftover bones for her dogs. The ambrosial aroma of the gardenias offered a faint whiff of hope.
            She couldn’t get the glowering image of her dead husband out of her head. “I won’t let him get to me again,” she said aloud, surprised at the sound of her own voice. She was stunned at how real Marty’s presence was in her life even now and how he could still devastate her. She looked up as her housekeeper walked into the room. “It’s OK, Sarah.”
            “Are you all right, Mrs. Melcher?”
            Doris recoiled at hearing the once-loved name but nodded. She didn’t want to upset anyone.
            “I can bring you a glass of…something, if you’d like.”
            “I’m fine. Thanks.” She watched Sarah silently back out of the room.
            Doris was almost 50 now, the years wearing well on her. She had people come to the house every morning to do her hair and makeup, and to help keep her slim body in shape. These people had been coming so long that they had become trustworthy friends, people she could count on. They were good company. Looking in the mirror was sometimes difficult but that wasn’t new. There were always those damned freckles which seemed to spread like grains of sand as she got older.
            She looked out the window toward the manicured back yard and stared at the crystal-clear water where the pool man was energetically vacuuming the bottom of the pool, creating waves that splashed over the sides.
The memories kept coming. She felt stupid and somehow responsible for what had happened to her, struggling to make sense of it.
When Terry stuck his head in the door, she continued the conversation as if there had been no pause.
            “But why Jerry? He and his wife spent all those weekends with us at the Malibu house.” There was a plaintive edge to her voice. “He even got along with Marty. He was my lawyer, too, for God’s sake. He handled that last divorce. He was a pit bull. Marty trusted him, too.”
            “I know, Mom. I know. Maybe too well. But he was the big financial guru, remember. He was the one with all the advice about investments. He had to know. Maybe he set it all up.”
            The mood momentarily brightened. “You think it might not have been Marty’s fault?”
            “I know you want to believe that, but he was involved. Jerry never made a financial move without Marty’s OK. Dammit, they were in this together.”
            Almost imperceptibly, she stopped romanticizing him as the sculptor who molded her career, the good guy, the one who made the best decisions. Up to now, she could separate out the husband from the agent and manager. Her perceptions of her life with him, however, were transforming right before her eyes.
            Her mind was racing, a collection of flashbacks and scenes. That conversation with Judy Garland during a serendipitous meeting on the train to New York ten years ago or so. Why did that come roaring back now? Judy had loudly complained about her husband, whom she felt was using her. Doris had defended Marty. He would never take advantage, at least not that way, and wondered why Judy had laughed. She had enjoyed the talk, though, glad that Marty and Sid had gone to the club car hours ago for drinks. Neither man was what you’d call handsome. Both were dark and stocky, with coarse features. And both had been their third husbands.
It wasn’t often she had the chance to get together this way with someone like her, one whom she admired in spite of the much-publicized problems. Doris didn’t do drugs, not much alcohol anymore and didn’t understand Judy’s addictions. She liked her and that’s what mattered. Judy made her laugh. And she knew how it was to work for a tyrannical studio boss, the relentless and dehumanizing pressures. With Judy, it had been Louis B. Mayer; Doris’ nemesis was Jack Warner. They laughed as they shared horror stories.
            “He would actually get on his hands and knees on the plush carpeting in that huge white office, and tell me he was begging me…as a father,” Judy chortled. “The poor old guy could get it from anyone on the lot. It was pathetic. I tried so hard not to laugh. Fathers don’t try to schtup their daughters.” They both doubled over with laughter, gasping for air.
            Doris had stories, too. “Jack was a total jerk, always hitting on me. Those beady little eyes. Marty started coming to his office with me. Protection that I needed. We both learned how to play the game. And it wasn’t so bad, was it? We got what we wanted, didn’t we?”
            Judy paused and looked away. “Sure.” Doris wondered what she was thinking as she turned to study the speeding landscape. Doris could see Judy’s face darken in the reflection of the train’s window. What was Judy not telling her? Was this a warning?
            To be fair, she had known Marty was a cheater and a liar when she married him. He had been married to one of the Andrews sisters when they met. She remembered one frightening evening when they were in bed. There was an insistent pounding on the door of her apartment. A woman was yelling outside. Doris was terrified.
            “Shhhh,” he whispered, quietly reaching for her hand.
            “Let me in, you bastard. I know you’re in there with that slut. Come out here and face me, you asshole.”
            Neither of them moved from the bed, frozen. How did she know where Doris lived? Were they followed? In time, the screaming stopped and they heard the footsteps slowly fade.
            Then there was the recording career. Marty had his fingers in everything she did. Some said he deliberately commissioned second tier songwriters to write her songs, saving money. For the good of the family, she thought. She loved the music and the musicians but now she understood the money went somewhere else. And those last movies weren’t the best, either. He had convinced her to leave the safety of Warners and selected the rest of her films himself. How could she have let that pass? Her career mattered to her, a lot. She comforted herself by thinking of the warm relationships with her wonderful costars. The often-inspired pairings kept her spirits high and her career on track, in spite of the lousy dialogue and contrived plots.
Her stomach clenched as the realization sunk in: it was all her own damned fault. She had lived her life on automatic pilot, delegating it all, riding on her innate talent. Whatever was going on with Marty was in the background. There were more pressing issues almost all the time.
            There had been her mothers’ long decline into Alzheimer’s, which took its toll on everyone. Then there was Terry’s increasing drug use and his skanky friends. And the Humane Society that kept coming around unexpectedly to count the number of animals she had. That made her angry. It was easy to lose track, she’d claim. She was doing a good deed, after all, taking care of all her homeless four-leggers. She had been sick, too, really ill for a long time until she talked Marty into letting her see a doctor. The hysterectomy done in secret waylaid her for months. All that was nothing compared to the pressure of maintaining her wholesome and cheerful image, her stardom and the health of her glorious voice.
When she got anxious about money, Marty always reassured her. “Everything’s going well, Doris. Jerry and I have this under control. Relax. We know what we’re doing.”
            Yeah, she had been used, but she had to give herself some credit. She pushed for a separation a year or so before he died. There had been a long overdue confrontation.
“I know you’re seeing someone. Who is it?”
“Doris, it’s nobody you know.”
“It’s never nobody. I don’t even know what that means.”
“It didn’t mean anything.”
“It never does, to you.” She held in most of her anger. “We’re done. I’m sorry but I can’t do this anymore.” She glared at him. “You have to leave.”
Within a month or two, she had started to see other men. Her friends told her not to rush into anything, that she needed to figure out who she was now as a single person. And while she felt free, she was also afraid—of making her own decisions, of another mistake, of merely managing her own life. Now she could spend time with friends and not have to check in constantly. She rode her bike all over Beverly Hills, resting only briefly in the local park where she almost always ran into smiling fans. It made her day.
It didn’t bother her too much that Terry had moved out of the house a few years back, eager not only to start his own life but to get away from Marty. He was living with his girlfriend on Cielo Drive in Bel Air and life was good for him. Terry told her he wanted to be a record producer so she got him a job at Columbia Records. She was glad for his success but she missed him. They still talked on the phone almost daily, exchanging gossip and sharing the absurdity of life, almost like friends more than mother and son.
She remembered finishing a guffaw-filled lunch with a friend, an old Warners colleague (or “inmate” as they joked) at her favorite deli just a mile from her house. It had been several years since they’d seen each other, but when they sat down their warm bond was immediately rekindled. They left each other with a promise to get together again soon.
Wheeling her bike into the slow traffic on Beverly Drive, she heard her name.
“Doris. Hey.”
Looking across the street, she saw Jerry Rosenthal, their attorney, waving at her.
Jerry parked quickly and leaped out of his car. He looked agitated.
“Marty’s been taken to the hospital. In an ambulance.”
It had to be serious for that to happen. Marty had more than adopted her Christian Science beliefs. He had co-opted them, refusing medical treatment for anything, even with the acute pains he was having. She had no idea.
She stopped everything after his hospital discharge, even taking him back to the house where they had once lived. She thought she was through with him, but there was still unfinished business. The cancer had spread and there was little time left. She hoped they could talk about, well, everything, but he was too weak and not at all interested in resolution. She persuaded him to hire a nurse and tried to convince him to eat. He got thinner, complained constantly and then she watched him die. She had felt guilty only briefly, regretful of all she had not done for him, could not do. But now she was glad he suffered, glad he was dead. Even the good memories were gone.

            Her reverie was interrupted by the phone, making her aware that two hours had elapsed since Terry came home with the news. Time was less important than the ominous events unfolding. Terry moved to the table by the bed and picked up the receiver.
            “It’s Jerry.”
            She felt a whooshing inside her head. She didn’t know what to do. Whatever else he had done, Jerry had been in cahoots with Marty to commit Doris to that five-year contract for a series at CBS. She was still angry about that. She hadn’t found out about it until Marty had died and was devastated for so many reasons. Ironically, though, it would bring in a much-needed income now.
            She turned to Terry, who was still holding the phone close to his chest. “What should I do?”
            It was so hard to break that habit, that reliance on the men in her life, to make important decisions. But this was not the time for reformation. She needed time to think.
            “You don’t have to talk to him. I’ll take care of this.”
            She sat back down on the bed and reached for her golden retriever, tenderly scratching him behind the ear. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t understand any of this.”
            Terry nodded to his mother and spoke into the receiver. “Jerry, don’t ever call here again. Our attorney will be in touch.”
            Attorney? Of course. That would be the solution. At least, one of them. She would sue Jerry for whatever he stole. Could she report him to the police? Could he go to jail? How will she live now? Where’s the money? How could this happen? Marty?
            So many questions but she knew two things. First, she would sue the shit out of Jerry Rosenthal. And second, she was convinced that the only man she would ever trust again would be her son. Well, maybe Barry. Such a kind man.

* * * * *

Pam Munter has authored several books including When Teens Were Keen: Freddie Stewart and The Teen Agers of Monogram (Nicholas Lawrence Press, 2005) and Almost Famous: In and Out of Show Biz (Westgate Press, 1986). She’s a retired clinical psychologist, former performer and film historian. Her many lengthy retrospectives on the lives of often-forgotten Hollywood performers and others have appeared in Classic Images and Films of the Golden Age. More recently, her essays and short stories have been published in The Rumpus, The Manifest-Station, The Coachella Review, Lady Literary Review, The Creative Truth, Adelaide, Litro, Angels Flight—Literary West, TreeHouse Arts, Persephone’s Daughters, Canyon Voices, Open Thought Vortex, Fourth and Sycamore, Nixes Mate, Scarlet Leaf Review, Cold Creek Review, Communicators League, I Come From The World, Switchback, The Legendary, bioStories and others. Her play Life Without was a semi-finalist in the Ebell of Los Angeles Playwriting Competition and was nominated for Outstanding Play by the Desert Theatre League. She was also nominated for the Bill Groves Award for Outstanding Original Writing. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California at Riverside/Palm Desert. 

Friday 29 September 2017

A Modern Bluebeard

by Jane Yolen

So, he controls you, my dear friend,
cozens, warns, makes allowances,
hands tight on the reins.

So he feeds you sweets, tells you secrets,
whispers them in your ear: Tonight,
he says; the promise tickles.

There is a new gown, he brushes your hair,
a hundred and one strokes,
his hand on his knife.

Look, look, there’s blood upon the key.

* * * * *

Jane Yolen, author of 360+ books (actual number) including 8 books of adult poetry. Much of her work is for young readers, but she has a number of novels, essay collections, and pedagogical books for adult as well.

Thursday 28 September 2017

Intimations of Mortality

by Jane Yolen

In the big brown chair,
my mother snuggled
with her cancer,
reading my story
about a boy who wanted
to stop time.

Intimations of mortality,
she said, adding a small chuckle,
as close to a catch of breath
she could handle.
I remember that,
sitting here with you.

Your cancer, a new passion,
between us, the third wheel,
your most intimate friend now,
the one none of us wanted
to invite to the christening.
I see a long sleep soon.

We are all fairy tales at the end.

* * * * *

Jane Yolen, author of 360+ books (actual number) including 8 books of adult poetry. Much of her work is for young readers, but she has a number of novels, essay collections, and pedagogical books for adult as well.

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Kind Women

by Karen Friedland

Kind women,
who live in cities
and who love beauty

inevitably grow plants so big,
they could be trees,
reaching for the ceiling
as if reaching for the sky.

Kind women think nothing
of giving books, food and cuttings
to wanting younger women
who stop by—

books that line shelves over the years,
and cuttings
that grow huge and leafy
and act as talismans
against the evil men do,

growing on my window seat,
spreading their gnarled green grace

on passersby.

Tuesday 26 September 2017


by Karen Friedland

There’s a panic
to the coming flowers,
like slow, eagerly-anticipated fireworks—
Crocus! Oooh! Daffodil! Aaaah! Tulip!

To the trees, budding frantically,
and the roiling gray skies looming above us,
portending change by the minute,
just as we’d gotten accustomed to winter.

There’s far too much tenderness
in early spring—
the fallen sparrow’s egg,
its unhatched chick still inside; 
the green leaves unfurling,
already chewed to lace by a nonindigenous caterpillar
that’s working its way up the coast;
emerging pale green day lilies
crushed by oafish, heavy work boots.

“Life ain’t fair, kid,”
my Dad would explain,
when I saw a man with no legs,

“life ain’t fair.”

Monday 25 September 2017

Learning How to Pray

by Lisa Marguerite Mora

She hands me a china cup, steaming with black tea, sweetened
with condensed milk. At age four, it’s the best thing I have ever tasted.

She is my mother and we have been apart a long time. Outside the rain, 
tiny horse hooves move across a gray sky. The world is good and clean. 

Wet pavement, salt air breath of the ocean close by.  
Its giant sigh does not disturb me.

Living here with my mother brings everything to life.
She’s magic.

She places a round stone into an earthen pot, soon a yellow star flower
lives there, open mouthed as I am at my mother’s abilities.

I will learn more of how the world gives such gifts.
If I wait and watch, soon I will know a lot.

I should have been more specific with God. But no one taught me how to pray properly,
to give thanks for what I had. The earth and God will take their due.

I can’t remember if I prayed for her the day she died. I can’t remember
if I prayed for myself. The rain clattered outside like horse hooves.

There wasn’t much else between me and the life pressing upon me.
But still, I can’t tell you what I’ve learned.

Listen, I will tell you what I do know.

There is a trap door leading to the worn floors of heaven. Once in awhile I catch 
an angel there and its wings brush against the throb of my temple.

It folds its wings and arms and waits for me to either recognize it
or let it go.

So patient. So unrelenting.
So willing to forgive.

* * * * *

"Learning How to Pray" was published previously in a different form by ONTHEBUS Literary Journal.

Lisa Marguerite Mora has had work published in Rattle, ONTHEBUS, Rebelle Society, The Urban Howl, Cultural Weekly, Public Poetry Series, Literary Mama, and California Quarterly, among many others including a Blue Mountain Arts Poetry Prize. Recently she has finished a first novel and is at work on second. Lisa studied with author Carolyn See at UCLA where she received a Bachelors in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis. A story editor and consultant, she also conducts creative writing workshops in the Los Angeles area.

Sunday 24 September 2017

Still Life

by Jill Crainshaw

I am his heart,
  the beat
  beat beating heart.

Perhaps you have seen the photographs.
Such a peaceful visage. Still
              by the beat beat beating
                   of time.

A hawk-moth hummingbird mid-air
        in the picture window
to kiss a moonflower’s awakening ear,
        as nectar of paradise
        thrums through quivering wings.        

A nurse,
eleventh hour of a twelve hour shift,
pauses. Looks out through the window
turns inward. Tender
eyes alight on his face. She touches two fingers
to a small wrist.
        She counts my pulsating surges
              one two,
                           three four
                   thirteen fourteen   fifteen

Mama cradles the child whose
body cradles me. I am
                                    his heart.
Suspended in a tornado’s eye. Still.
          She hears me

as another night ascends and
falling rain begins to
              beat beat   beat
              on the window pane.

* * * * *

Author's Note: "Still Life" is a poem I wrote just prior to Charlie Gard's death. The poem is a kind of persona poem written from the perspective of Charlie's heart. My own heart aches for Charlie's family.

Jill Crainshaw is a professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She enjoys exploring how words give voice to unexpected ideas, insights and visions.

Saturday 23 September 2017


by Kathleen Murphey

That’s the crab, right, the fourth sign of the zodiac?
People born at the end of June and into July,
intuitive and sentimental people.
Sadly, no. “Invasive Ductal Carcinoma,”
IDC, a form of Breast Cancer.
Cancer, “a malignant tumor of potentially
unlimited growth that expands locally, by invasion,
and systemically, by metastasis.”
Cancer or “canker,” Old English from the Latin
for “crab or creeping ulcer,” so-called because of
the swollen, inflamed veins around the tumor,
resembling the limbs of a crab.

Hippocrates classified two kinds,
“carcinos,” non-ulcer-forming tumors
and “carcinomas,” ulcer-forming tumors.
Ductal carcinoma starts in the milk ducts
while Lobular carcinoma starts in the
milk-producing glands.
The breast, the giver of life,
milk and sustenance and comfort,
The breast, the taker of life,
with cells mutating and spreading disease.
One in eight American women will have it,
joining legions of women,
some Running or Walking for the Cure,
decked out in pink, at the Susan G. Komen 3-Day.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month,
with even NFL players sporting pink.

So many terms, I wasn’t familiar with,
Adnocystic, Adenosquamous, Mucinous,
Papillary, Tubular, Metaplastic, Micropapillary,
Inflammatory, Paget Disease of the Nipple,
Phyllodes Tumor, Angiosarcoma.
And cancer has grades.  Not A, B, C,
but Grade 1, 2, 3, 4,
One, the best or least advanced,
and Four, the worst or most advanced.
Within grades, there are scores, 3-9:
Grade 1, Score 3, 4, or 5,
Grade 2, Score 6 or 7,
Grade 3, Score 8 or 9.
I am hoping for Grade 1, Score 3.

Funny, how the Gail Scale,
a Breast Cancer Assessment Tool,
gave me a rating of 11.8% likely of developing
breast cancer, but now that’s all shot to hell.
Bilateral breast biopsies,
and a diagnosis of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in both breasts.
A surgeon talking double mastectomy or
double lumpectomy with radiation.
Not breasts sacrificed for Amazonian glory,
but ones amputated because of the toxin within.
I want to wake up and just associate cancer
with the zodiac crab, an astrological sign,
but the crab has always been associated with the disease,
tentacles and limbs spreading out, crab-like,
metastasizing and infecting, other organs and systems.
Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, I’ll do what it takes.
I’m not ready to go down without a fight.

* * * * *

Kathleen Murphey is an associate professor of English at Community College of Philadelphia.  Recently, she has been writing fiction (both short stories and poetry) on women’s and social justice issues.  To learn more about her work, see

Friday 22 September 2017

My last journey

by Sheena Singh

It rained last night
the smell of wet soil
stuck to my nostrils;
as I lay amidst my folks…

Stuffed in a glass coffin
No more aches,
Nor heart breaks
On my embalmed body…

I’ve turned cold
to the world outside,
Just few minutes away
from my final journey…

The East wind just blew
my head side lamp;
fragrance of sandal
lingering all around…

The white cotton sheet
Falling off my toes
It's cold outside
Cover my toes please.

My voice choked
as I called them;
my dears and nears
weeping in corners…

My golden streaks
Crumbled on the floor…
Let me comb those
Show me the mirror please.

My stern puffy eyelids
refused to budge
The cool sea breeze
Ripped my lips apart...

Alas! They called my name
For, the pyre is being set…
The wait is finally over
for me to embrace fire…

Thursday 21 September 2017


by Lorri Jackson

Be sure to have enough
friends w/ spare sofas
wake up, quietly put on
the same T-shirt
worn 7 days consecutively
and smellin quite like you
creep out into the mornin
the bones in the bottom
of yer feet and knees
are still achin
from walkin the day before
so head to yer fave diner
where a bowl of soup is less
than a dollar
drink 7 cups of coffee
and the mornin is spent
pick up yer bags
and walk slowly
no sense in hurryin now
sit on a bus bench for a while
and talk a long time
about jesus to the woman
next to you
or the black man in the alley
who says he used to play percussion
with the rollin stones
drink beer on a park bench
if someone else buys it
go back to the diner for more coffee
yer calves ache
and yer knees ache
and the small of yer back aches
and yer belly aches
and yer lungs ache
and yer arms ache
and yer heart aches
ride the train to the end
of the line a couple of times
and if you have the money
see a double B feature
and if it’s rainin
read a book in the library
it’s evenin now
and too cold to sleep in the park
go to a bar
and try to meet a nice man
make sure it’s dark enough
he can’t tell how shabby yer clothes are
maybe he has his own apartment
and a well stocked refrigerator
and he doesn’t have a girlfriend
a sweetheart, a wife
show him yer dimples
even if it hurts
the scars on yer heart
and the bottom of yer feet
when the sun comes up
put on yesterday’s T-shirt
worn 8 days consecutively
yer crusty socks and stuffed boots
creep out into the mornin
the bones in the bottom
of yer feet are still achin
a cupa soup is less
than a dollar
write a letter to yer grandma
while yer waitin for the bus
you never get on
tell her yer fine
and not to worry
but don’t tell her the worst part
of livin day to day
is not havin a place to cry in privacy
don’t tell her the greyhound urinals
suffice for now
don’t tell her the bones
in the bottom of yer feet
ache like you were a hundred years old
just tell yer grandma
yer doin fine

* * * * *

"Things To Do When You Have No Home" is from So What If It's True: From the Notebooks of Lorri Jackson, edited by RW Spryszak and published by Thrice Publishing 2017.

Lorri Jackson died in 1990 at the age of 28. She suffocated after injecting heroin. Some of her powerful work survives and tells her grimy truth without obvious complaint but with merciless accuracy.