John Brighenti CC
Our bruises from last month have not healed
It feels more like a first time broken-heart
Or when you kill an innocent deer on the highway
Just let us process.
Or was it last week?
The red, deep gash has turned to white soapy paralytic skin:
Blue bruises sink lower into the skin and are reabsorbed by the body
Like blood clots
Pops in a parade
On this fourth day of the sweetheart of summer
But it is
“Wait, wasn't it last month in Texas with 19 or was it 20?” I hear from the official BBQ master.
Hard to keep track
The violence now marks occasions, creates confusing remembrances. Too many “days of.”
“Is that Chicago? Someone turn on CNN right now!”
There is a big cake on the picnic on the backyard picnic table
It is an American flag
Red strawberry sweetness and blueberry stripes, the fruited plain
Cool whip clouds and mountains' majesty
There is a sparkler in each corner of the cake, lit like a birthday candle as it is presented to the masses. Children eager for it’s sweetness.
I could buy an AK at the Walmart down the street if I wanted to right now. I have two abortion pills saved in my top drawer. I was supposed to take them to open my cerviz when geting my IUD out, but I preferred to feel the pain.
We got a huge trunk load of fireworks this year, more than last year even though it’s illegal.
We are white and the cops only show up if body parts get blown off.
Pop pop pop
Blasts are beautiful in the sky, the moms cover the babies' ears with their palms. Pull their stomachs in. Cover their uterus’ with full spread hands without realizing it. Don't tread on me.
The dogs in the neighborhood are anxious and barking,
Scratching at glass windows to get out and patrol
Unsure why their world is shaking
Where are the humans when the boom booms go off?
In between now
My father washed my hair in gasoline once when I was eight. Not because I had lice but because a letter came home from school saying that my whole class had been exposed to it. My father thought he was being pre-emptive against the little white invaders, but really, he was just too cheap to buy the eight-dollar lice shampoo they sold at CVS that came with the little wire comb. You could get a gallon of gas back then for less than a dollar, pocket change, or couch change we called it. There was always a red plastic gallon of gas in the garage for the lawnmower. To him, this was a genius solution. Those little suckers will never live through this! He laughs, all too pleased with himself.
He laid me down prone, looking up to the sky on his newly built picnic table, the wood was still yellow and alive. My head hung off the edge like a face up guillotine. I remember my neck aching from holding steady above the red bucket on the ground beneath my head to catch the runoff for reuse. In my memory it is summer or spring because the backyard is green, and the sky is blue with cotton ball clouds.
My skull was on fire, and I was dizzy from gravity, sunlight, and fumes. I remember my father’s rough, fat, calloused hands as they pressed into my scalp.
After, I ran for the safety of the shower. I spent all the hot water I could trying to shampoo and re-shampoo my hair with my older sister’s strawberry Suave to get rid of the horrible smell. That week in school I had mysteriously lost a bunch of friends overnight for no reason. When I finally got up the courage to ask a girl from the neighborhood why, she said it was because I had been wearing my hair curly and that no one liked my curly hair. As I washed and rewashed my scorched, now straw-like hair, all I could hope was that maybe, if I was lucky, the gasoline would magically have taken all the curls out of my hair. Maybe it would be stick straight, silky and shiny like all the other girls at school. Then they would all be my friends again.
Julie Alden Cullinane is a poet, writer, and artist from outside Boston, Massachusetts. Her artwork and poetry have been published in Stylus, Plexus, The Boston Globe, and The Graduate Review Volumes VI & VII, Chapter House and recently Red Wolf Periodical. is currently working in academia while pursuing admittance to a Ph.D. program and teaching opportunities. Besides writing, she loves being a mom to her two boys and dog and is hoping to someday escape from society and live in the woods and write.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.