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M Pence Apr 2013
My grandmother had an oak tree that was a dragon in her front yard.
It sat waiting patiently to swallow the summer-lemon sun whole,
spitting out golden and flame-licked leaves.
I played in its snake-tunneled shadows below, perpetually
squinting upward into the sky.
Too big to climb for me.
But perfect for day-dreams on my back.
My mother caught a baby robin fallen from that tree once.
There was nothing we could do.
Young, then, nestled in withering brown leaves and the pale skin of my mother’s fingers,
to our great sadness it passed, cold and small.
Ten years are only ten leaves-changing to an oak.
But perhaps the robin’s death changed something in the tree.
Half its leaves flew away as if chased. Its branches twisted inside themselves.
The green was gone.
My grandfather cut it down.
There is nothing romantic and no armor involved in a chain saw for a once-dragon of a tree.
My mother felt sick soon after.

Sometimes I dream about her standing on a stump of a tree with one green leaf.
In her hand is a red-breasted robin, singing, and on her face , gone are the hard lines
a disease creased there.

Sometimes I dream she tells me to come home and when I wake up,
I weep and tell her I can’t.
Not yet.
But I ask her to wait for me. And when I wake up, I wait for the sound of robins nearby.
My mother’s smile, sad and joyful, lurks within bird song.
My mother passed away in Dec, 2011. I struggle in telling her how I feel, the words I should have said, and the tributes to a woman more amazing than I can put into words for raising such a defected daughter.
M Pence Sep 2012
My mother is a book
made in china by a company name I can't read on the sticker because
her font is too small.
Her skin is romantic and Victorian: elegant hand writing with roses, stamps, pretend pressed flowers.
She is even decorated with butterflies and tea cups, delicate and feminine.
She is gold in the middle, lost when a page is opened. Her body has many crisp, clean squares without a word on them.
She has many years with no writing.
There is a note for what she wanted for Christmas, a phone number for holistic medicine--
one poem.

Hundreds and hundreds of pages of silences then one tiny voice.
She said, "everyday we chose to learn. Every day we sometimes get burned."
And, "They wouldn't believe it if I told you what its like behind your eyes."
"Dont' give up, Whatever you do, there is so much love for you."

The woman who gave birth to me
--she's a book.
I touch it but wood is not the same as human skin. The sound of pages flipping is not the same as the warmth of air being taken inward in a breath. Closing pages is not the same thump as a heart beat.

A book is only a little life.
My mother deserved more than a little life.
More than just a little page.
More than just a little book her daughter reads over and over and over again,
hoping for a little life.
M Pence Jul 2011
She wishes to know if I am oh-kay,
if I am doing well, smiling over the rim of a tea-cup like jackals with secrets.
Persephone gets caught in my teeth
every time I think of some answer.
Trapped in rows of off-white winter bone,
she wriggles around in my old lady gums,
cursing, shouting, kicking--
our mouths are epic ballads of lies in the name of not-worrying-anyone.
Then they worry us to death.

The Hades made out of all of our lies:
Everything's great! We're all great! Everyone is fine!
keeps pulling her back down into the earth of my heart.
Where no one knows I have eaten a seed of myself.

Demeter, howling for her lost child dies,
like doves crushed in cruel children's hands.
M Pence Oct 2010
There are people born to be leaders.
They make colgate-white-toothed speeches;
rally the class, frenzy the cheerleaders,
touch the half drunk trucker in the middle of a bar fight
who stops in mid bloodied-knuckle punch
to slack-jaw watch the television,
exhaling beer and eating up hope.

Some are poets.
They take what you say everyday and make it expand;
word-balloons that when they pop they evolve.
Into the universe.
Into the light behind your first high-school crushes eyes.
Into the late night melancholy we all feel.
Into that whistle-stop last piece of air in your throat when something so beautiful has been read that
you will never, ever, ever breathe the same way again.

Others will be painters.
And they will tear open your eyes,
pour them full of color
or monochrome
or neon
or fur
or maybe even popsicle sticks.
And they will make you think about things you really didn't want to,
or know about before, or understand and when you are done looking at what they do--
you won't remember who you were, before.
You'll be someone new.
Someone with this piece of art that clawed you open to change.

Occasionally one or two of them will become writers.
They'll sit down and slither their little keyboard-flattened fingers,
across breast bone.
Snap it in half with the sound of stale, dry kit-kat bars.
Push a few marrow-fragments aside.
Then worm into their chests and tear out pieces of their hearts.
One piece for their home-life neglected to pour out a story.
One piece for every rejection letter.
One piece for the parts of all of their sons and daughters plays missed due to deadlines.
Millions of pieces for every rewrite, every,
Well, we really love this concept. But that small 500 page section needs to be cut.
And they will dump paragraphs of kerosene into your head.
Their next chapter is the match.
Brains will be on fire for their next books.

Some are born to be just like me.
Trapped in our heads,
staring at the leaders,
the poets,
the artists.
Wiping the sweat from our brows and bruising our souls on ***** floors that need mopping.
We'll wash your **** and **** from your toilets.
We'll stand there at thirty something and let the twenty-something kids scream at us
for not taking the garbage out properly and
you were late for this week's shift again,
and if you do that again--Listen, lady, I don't give a **** about your kids or who you need to watch them--you are fired,
you hear me? Fired.

We'll come home after eighteen hour days and cry into our pillows.
Or our cats fur.
Or into or carpet, because we can't afford furniture and
that's why we never ask anyone to come over.

We'll be the ones busy giving birth
to your leaders, your poets, your painters and writers.
Giving birth to your songs, your colors and your imagination.
M Pence Aug 2010
When I was a child I would wake in the summer to the songs of lions,
calling hotly for meat, blood, bone to fill their bellies.
How many little girls can say when they opened their eyes every morning the world reminded them:
"Take all from what you are given. Tear it apart in your teeth, your hands, your mouth and take nourishment from it.
"Eat. Live."

This morning my lions are
two black cats that weave pitifully between my bare feet
squeaking their discontent into a florescent sun.
I cannot even hear the sparrows.
M Pence Jul 2010
Will it be all the nights of your bed empty when I couldn't sleep?
Are you going to choose instead, the moment
I put underwear on my head and asked in a horrible Russian accent,
"Would you like some bread?"
(--Look that wasn't entirely all my fault I...
had a lot of coffee and had been awake two days in a row.)

I'd prefer--
the flash of my mouth at your belly,
the way your cold feet shock me awake and
the run-on-wheezing-snorts
from you making me laugh so hard I cried.

Actually, I'd prefer
every moment of every day I said I loved you in cups of morning coffee.
Bacon and egg breakfasts.
Hanging out of cars and making Wookie calls;
the moment you taught me about Baba Yaga and I said
you were the smartest man alive.

I'd prefer if you remembered me when I go,
as the sun on your face in the morning after you get to sleep in.
(because I know how work, life, goes for you.
They never let you sleep in.)
As the lips on your closed eyes,
as the love that men and women fight and die for--
wrote legends, penned scripts and made movies about.
That love, our love.

I'd prefer if you just remembered me
as love.
M Pence Apr 2010
I have missed me,
since I was twelve.

When there were dragons
in the lawn clippings,
fairies in my grandmother's petunias.

I rumpled myself into her long gowns, things she wore when
she was young and smiling in black and white.
I wore them over pavement, was always barefoot
in the evening grass, orange-tinted by falling sun.
My toes splayed in its coolness and I imagined
roots forever, crawling, growing, twisting
into another world.

A world where there were no drunks,
and family didn't scream at one another and
little girls weren't picked on for being fat
mother and father were kings and queens and
happy and in love and
no one cried.
No one cried.

I have missed me,
I have no more gowns.
My lawn is a lawn is a lawn and I
catch myself
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