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Beth C Apr 2013
For my young princes,

don't start your searches in a swamp:
toads kissed and coddled are still toads,
broken mirrors draped with silk are still broken,
the knife sticky with love is still a knife

sorry, so sorry, my sons
but a story you love is still a story
don't ask me for magic books,
maps to the underworld,
a talking horse

a broken girl is still a girl,
also still broken;
sorry about the locks
they won't magically open
Beth C Feb 2013
I go back to the old house, down off Harper Road and across from the old bakery. The paint is green now and the shutters look as if they would like to peel off the sides of the windows and float down the street. I stand there on the curb. I say, “This is my childhood home,” and it sounds like a lie. Then, “I used to live here.” Finally, “I don’t live here anymore.” That one’s better, truer, but it still sounds like a warning.

I find a neighbor too, a little older woman with reddish hair and beautiful pearl earrings, and I ask, “Do you remember a little girl who used to live here?”

“No,” she says, “you know how it is with neighbors these days, no one ever stops to say hello.”

I resist the urge to say hello; we talk about the weather. When she asks if I was the little girl, I lie. I don’t have a particular reason for this, but the knowing glint in her eyes irritates me. I talk about a cousin, an old acquaintance I wanted to find.

“Genealogical research,” I say, “a hobby,” and I keep lying until the woman with the pearls is no longer curious, or paying attention. I do not remember what I say; there are certain kinds of lies no one is ever particularly curious about after you tell them once.

I wait a polite amount of time and then I go back to the Motel 6. The girlish, conventional corner of my mind is whispering sadly. What a shame, she says, no one here remembers you.

The rest of me is a woman, vindictive and satisfied. Good, she says, and means it. If she had her way, she would burn the house to the ground like so much tinder and be done with it. A better ending than this, she says. She’s smiling; she thinks I should have slapped the lady with the pearls right across her ugly face, there in the middle of the street. You and me, she says, we don’t get paradise, but we’re old enough to choose our own hell. You and me, baby, we get a choice.

I light a cigarette in the dingy motel bathroom. It’s the first I've had in days and as close to paradise as anything else I know. I study myself in the ancient mirror, unfortunately positioned on the wall over the porcelain toilet. I say it out loud, testing the words, watching them weave through the smoke. “A better ending,” I say, and I try very hard to mean it.
Beth C Jan 2013
Time comes in waves,
is measured in pulses of light and dark.
Not true light, mind, but this is how I imagine it--
the tightness and then the sigh as some pressurized valve loosens.
I have never seen true light,
but the sands whisper of it longingly
as they tell their tales of something rare and precious.
I envy them their fluid existence,
swept up in a sea of that which is greater than themselves.
I am a solitary being, tough and hardened,
built to endure rather than enjoy.
This is something I wrote as a part of a group writing exercise a few months ago. We were given an animal and told to write something from its perspective. As an aside, I know nothing about mussels, so this is a pretty loose interpretation of the prompt.
Beth C Jan 2013
It's fourth grade recess,
I'm standing behind the white chalk lines
drawn onto the asphalt,
watching other kids win.

Some nameless ten-year-old
with curly red hair and shiny black shoes
is telling me about blood—
If it never touches the air
it is blue as the ocean.
I've never seen an ocean
and I believe him anyway.

Years pass,
and I'm still standing
behind someone else’s chalk lines.
I've long since passed biology
graduated from fairy tales,
though sometimes,
late at night
I still imagine blue blood
pumping in my arms,
curling lazily under my fingertips.
I've seen the ocean now
and I know better than to believe anything.

It's years later,
and I'm drawing my own chalk lines
across the mirror over the sink,
staring into myself.
I know better, I do,
but I imagine that my blue eyes
are filled up with blue blood.
If I cry hard enough,
I will stain my cheeks with cobalt
and the chalk will crumble against my face,
leaving stars burnt out and lost
in the sea of blue.

And the whole world will know
that I've seen the ocean,
the whole world will understand
that I bled myself dry.
A bit rough, suggestions appreciated.
Beth C Jan 2013
A shell
is a wonderful thing to have,
if you can carry it.

This is not the world
where I had wanted to live,
I had not hoped
for deserts and desertions
and gilded cages,

a world where the tortured tortoise
can no longer be sure
if armor imprisons
or protects.

There is a version of this story,
where slow and steady wins the race--
that was another age, a different world,
and in our story they run for their lives
and no one wins.

Bullets and arrows are streaming through the air
and the world tastes like mud,
and this is not about virtue anymore.

The hare is fast
but his skin is thin,
he is too soft for our story.
There is no room for knowing smirks
and this is not about speed.

You want winners and losers,
you want a moral,
you want something like salvation
or a punchline.
You say it's the least I could do for you,
after all this trouble.

And I say I'm sorry, I'm sorry,
but the tortoise survives,

and isn't that a consolation,
isn't that something?
Beth C Jan 2013
I can feel the music swirling inside,
Splashing up against the glass,
splitting apart,
Explosions in miniature
knocking around inside my head.

If I turn over the tumbler,
will the notes spill out,
wash the floor,
cool my heels as a liquid blessing?
an offering to the first god who’ll take it—
I’m not picky anymore.

Or will it stay, suspended
in this rarefied atmosphere,
an elixir of life, almost oxygen,
not quite enough to breathe?

If I get close enough,
the notes will knit themselves into my bones
pour through this frail skin
and remake me into a creature fluid and beautiful.

I can hear my mother’s voice,
“Turn off the music,” she says,
“I can’t think through all the noise.”
But I also hear a promise—
Just give me this,
my heaven, drowned in light.

Just let me get close enough,
let me break the glass against your floor,
And I will take the blood and the glass,  
I will weave you a castle,
And this one, finally, this one, will be right.
And we could disappear inside.

Yes, make me into a storm or a song or a broken glass,
turn me into a handgun or a time machine or
those last few stitches in the kind of wound that wouldn't heal.

And I will forget, I will be what I promised,
when we were young, and still remembered the old prayers.
Beth C Dec 2012
Stars and sins are swimming
all through my head;
Pain is shooting through my streets
and blurring my maps;

Some sweet poison
may well be flowing in the underground,
these veins of gold.

Underwater explosions stain
my pale ocean's surface,

I am big as a planet,
Baby, I am bleeding magma
burning like hell
or so many cigarettes,
I want out, I am caught
in my own gravity well.

Stars and sins are swimming
all through my heart,

all over the world
I am dragging down innocence
and pumping up oil.
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