Thursday, July 31, 2008

Massage by Chella Courington

Breathe into your belly. Let your mind follow your breath.
She presses the balls of her hands calmly

into my shoulders, my body flattens into the sheet.
Breathe into your belly. Let your mind follow your breath.

I remember my first love, small hands cupping my heels
in lavender. Like a priestess, she caressed each toe

until it tingled & anchored her fist at the top of my sole
her left palm at the top of my foot, sliding down

I dreamed of a love with slender fingers. Hers were
stubby, raw from pruning rose plants.

Breathe into your belly. Let your mind follow your breath.
Under her touch, fingers tapered toward my thigh.

Monday, July 28, 2008

At the Maximum Security Prison for Men by Chella Courington

Students come to me from solitary confinement
concrete oven set on high—
they come to me
a young woman from the University
who wants to talk about Paradise Lost.

They want to talk too.
Tony says when he broke in, he spotted a dog
and shot a man. Thought the house empty.
Billy Ray says he just needed money from the girl
at the ATM. My hand shook and the trigger went off.

They know why Milton’s God
clips Satan’s wings and kicks him out of heaven.
The man can’t take much lip. Just like my own daddy
knocking me three ways into Sunday when I say no to him.
Knuckles kneading my cheek blue till I cry stop.

The students ask if Satan’s the hero. And I wonder.
Did he endure that heavy hand one too many times?
Punched and mauled like a yard animal
taken behind the barn
left in darkness to find his way back.

Reprint. Illumen (Fall 2007). Ed Tyree Campbell and Erin Donahoe.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Edge of Morning by Chella Courington

We pass a joint, barely long
enough for a clip. You accuse me
of hiding my sex under tight sheets.
I breathe as deep as I can. Your words
bounce against the wall, single letters back
and forth: Navratolova slams one ball after a
nother. Chrissie’s flummoxed. Too late to drive
too high to care. And you invoke my mother’s ghost
like you always do this time of night: her hand reaches
from the grave to bless us. I roll more grass, lick the edge
to forget I’ll stumble off to bed with you and blame Mother
for pushing me into your arms.

SUB-LIT, 1.4 (Spring 2008). Ed. Michael Ogletree et al.

Friday, July 11, 2008

When Berryman Died by Chella Courington

He left his shoes, scuffed loafers,
on the bridge. A cordovan pair
he could have shed
anywhere: at the university
beside his desk, under Tate’s coffee table,
at the foot of a lover’s bed.

Every night he thought, tomorrow.
Mornings, he remembered
his suit at the cleaners, his essay
on Marlowe, students waiting
outside his office. January 7
reasons ran dry.

He bathed and trimmed his beard,
putting on a new shirt.
In eight degrees he walked
to the bridge.

First published in Touchstone (SP 2008), #40. Ed. David Murphy.

Monday, July 07, 2008

September by Chella Courington

Fog on the horizon
hides hard island edges.
Close to the patio
sprinklers swish: streams rise
in sun before falling in the garden.
Six plastic-pink flamingoes
parade by the sago palm.
A pair of dolphins, together
still after twenty years, watch
from the granite fountain.

Stripping an apple, peel swinging
in air, I think of Mother
who sliced what grew around her.
From wood the size of playing cards
she whittled small animals:
our cat on haunches, neck turned.
She carved a woman
on her knees, mostly stomach,
hands buried her bowed face.

Santa Ana winds blow dry
scatter dust in their wake.
Hummingbirds circle coral bells.
Their wings, shadow puppets
on stucco. Heavy with petals,
dahlias bend to rocky dirt.
Once I caught a Regal Moth—
panes of ruby and jade.
For three days, she flew.

Tonight my namesake calls
like Linda Blair from The Exorcist:
voice gravelly, emerging
from Minnesota. At 25 Satan
and God crowd her head.
No meds can wash them out.
God will kill you for leaving me.
I squeeze the receiver
not forgetting her butterfly nightshirt—
wings pressed against me.

First published in Touchstone (SP 2008), #40. Ed. David Murphy.