Friday, October 30, 2009

Lynette’s War by Chella Courington

My cousin Lynette says she’s tired from cleaning
East Main houses of rich bitches. They don’t even shit
like us, got toilet seats that float to the bowl,
never make a sound, & she hands me the baby
over the front seat. Days off Merry Maids
we like to drive her ’97 Trans Am to Atlanta—
kd lang over eight speakers.
I’m tired too, tired of being the babysitter.
Leah grabbing my earrings, covers me in crumbs.
She bites off the heads of animal crackers.
Only eats heads.

Don’t know why I hang with her.
She’s like the girl who cut my hair at Cinderella’s
saying I had the ugliest strands she’d ever seen.
I kept going back for more till Lynette blurted
you don’t need to pay for that kind of shit.
But Lynette says outright
she’s sexy & I’m not. We both know it.
Junior high she called me a mutant. Boobs
like raisins on a fifteen-year old’s wrong.
Mama took me to the doctor & he shook his head.

At least Lynette is a good mother.
When the kid has fever, Lynette won’t go
to work. I’d rather lose my job
than leave a sick baby at daycare.
Guess that’s why I hang with her.
She might call me names, but let somebody else do it,
she’d scratch their eyes out. At the Sonic,
some boy from Crossville leaned in the window,
drop the fat chick & let’s go driving.
She clawed his left cheek & screeched away,
tray still on the car, cokes & fries flying.
Son of a bitch thinks he can dump on you and have
a good time with me. Stupid bastard.

I thought Lynette would always be the one to leave.
Good looking. Smart. She never let anybody
walk on her, or me, though she did
what Cochran girls do after getting their
driver’s license. She got knocked up.
Wouldn’t tell a soul who the father was.
We all thought it was Sonny Cruz.
He went to Iraq in August & emailed Lynette every day.
Like they were junk, she’d hit delete.
He started writing letters she stacked on her dresser—
unopened. Keeping in touch with soldiers
is talking to the dead. Sonny could come back,
I say. Lots of boys make it. Lynette turned away
he might, but he won’t be the Sonny I knew.

After homecoming she carries his letters out to the grill.
They catch on the third match.
Every last word.

Voted Goodreads October Poem (2009)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Spiderweb by Kay Ryan

From other
angles the
fibers look
fragile, but
not from the
spider’s, always
hauling coarse
ropes, hitching
lines to the
best posts
possible. It’s
heavy work
fighting sag,
winching up
give. It
isn’t ever
to live.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

THE SHEEP-CHILD by James Dickey

Farm boys wild to couple
With anything with soft-wooded trees
With mounds of earth mounds
Of pine straw will keep themselves off
Animals by legends of their own:
In the hay-tunnel dark
And dung of barns, they will
Say I have heard tell

That in a museum in Atlanta
Way back in a corner somewhere
There's this thing that's only half
Sheep like a woolly baby
Pickled in alcohol because
Those things can't live his eyes
Are open but you can't stand to look
I heard from somebody who ...

But this is now almost all
Gone. The boys have taken
Their own true wives in the city,
The sheep are safe in the west hill
Pasture but we who were born there
Still are not sure. Are we,
Because we remember, remembered
In the terrible dust of museums?

Merely with his eyes, the sheep-child may
Be saying saying

I am here, in my father's house.
I who am half of your world, came deeply
To my mother in the long grass
Of the west pasture, where she stood like moonlight
Listening for foxes. It was something like love
From another world that seized her
From behind, and she gave, not Iifting her head
Out of dew, without ever looking, her best
Self to that great need. Turned loose, she dipped her face
Farther into the chill of the earth, and in a sound
Of sobbing of something stumbling
Away, began, as she must do,
To carry me. I woke, dying,

In the summer sun of the hillside, with my eyes
Far more than human. I saw for a blazing moment
The great grassy world from both sides,
Man and beast in the round of their need,
And the hill wind stirred in my wool,
My hoof and my hand clasped each other,
I ate my one meal
Of milk, and died
Staring. From dark grass I came straight

To my father's house, whose dust
Whirls up in the halls for no reason
When no one comes piling deep in a hellish mild corner,
And, through my immortal waters,
I meet the sun's grains eye
To eye, and they fail at my closet of glass.
Dead, I am most surely living
In the minds of farm boys: I am he who drives
Them like wolves from the hound bitch and calf
And from the chaste ewe in the wind.
They go into woods into bean fields they go
Deep into their known right hands. Dreaming of me,
They groan they wait they suffer
Themselves, they marry, they raise their kind.

Copyright © 1966 by James Dickey. All rights reserved. By permission of the Literary Estate of James Dickey.

The Atlantic Monthly; August 1966; The Sheep-Child.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Medley by Chella Courington



Hi, don’t hang up, my name is Meredith Medley.
Meredith Medley.
What kind of name is that?
Oh, my mom teaches piano at Waverly High.
Waverly? I went there.
Me too, graduated in 85.
I graduated in 88. Are you calling me about the reunion?
No, I’m calling about your favorite TV show.
My what?
Favorite TV show.
I don’t watch TV.
Does anybody in your household?
Who wants to know?
What if there’s nobody in my household?
Are you saying you’re single?
What if I am?
Are you looking?
For what?
Someone to be with.
Like who?
Anybody. What do you do if you don’t watch TV?
Why should I tell you?
Cause I work for Nielsen.


Hi, don’t hang up, my name is Meredith Medley.
But I sent my cell number to dontcalldotgov.
So you shouldn’t be calling me.
Why not?
I was sleeping.
At 4 in the afternoon?
Look Miss, Whoever You Are, it’s none of your goddamn business.
Excuse me, sir, but that language is totally uncalled for.
My language? You’re the one who woke me up.
You took our heavenly father’s name in vain.
He’s not my heavenly father.
What? You don’t believe in God?
It’s none of your goddamn business.
Look sir, I’m not going to talk to you unless you apologize.


Hi, don’t hang up, my name is Meredith Medley.
What do you want?
What’s your favorite TV show?
I work for Nielsen Ratings.
Nielsen who?
So, what’s your favorite?
The Biggest Loser.
You fat?
Not really.
How much do you weigh?
How tall?
You’re almost skinny. I weigh that much & I’m 5’5.”
I don’t eat between meals.
So, what’s your favorite show?
The Biggest Loser.
I hate fat people & hate myself for hating them.
So when they lose weight, I can love them again.
And when I love them again, I can love myself again.


Hi, don’t hang up, my name is Meredith Medley.
Are you kin to Mel Medley?
Mel Medley makes the meanest babyback ribs in Austin.
You from there?
No, but my best friend went to UT.
Hmm, what’s your favorite TV show?
South Park.
South Park.
How old are you?
Cause my nephew watches it.
How old’s he?
So what? Those guys who write it are a lot older than that.
How old are you?
And you like South Park?
Trey Parker & Matt Stone are geniuses.
What’s your name again?
Meredith Medley.

First Published: Poemeleon's Humor Issue (Winter 2008-09). Ed. Cati Porter.

Friday, October 02, 2009

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: Touchstone (2007-2008), Ed. David Murphy