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Oct 2015 · 498
Aubade
Mel Harcum Oct 2015
I met a homeless boy whose bedroom
filled to bursting with remnants of a past
absent and a childhood lost in autumn wind
blowing leaves (brown, orange, yellow),
and my hair (red) as he kissed me.
We stood in a paved parking lot facing
East as the sun rose (golden) along silhouetted
pines (green) standing like monuments to age and
the ever-concrete present until all singular
moments passed unnoticed as changing seasons.

Come dawn, we wake quiet in his bedroom,
and frost (white) slows the world to stopping.
Aug 2015 · 1.2k
Shalott's Loom
Mel Harcum Aug 2015
“Half sick of shadows,” cried the Lady of Shalott,
half sick of darkness growing, doorways
twisting, with faces grotesque on yellow wallpaper

and speaking woe in whispers passed
dream-thin through limbs and veins and minds
because a window is a stop sign until

opened, and locks are stitches sewing chapped lips
tense as the web woven, intricate designs
layered vibrant color on a lonely loom in a tower

otherwise lightless, heavy with pressure,
bearing down on the Lady of Shalott and her art--
made up in the image of Camelot.
Aug 2015 · 920
AM
Mel Harcum Aug 2015
AM
Here is what I am:
a survivor whose sun-soaked back tans
darker than her porcelain face;
trauma traps like wet concrete ‘round ankles,
dried shackles facing only shadows.

And a jackhammer would break the mold,
but not before shaking me up hard--
all crises stirred together, and my ribs
shrinking beneath sandbag weight,
breath heavy as blood’s penny-coin

odor; and I am suspended, head back
to face the rising light burning slurred
memories, blackened silhouettes, gone--
my face washed warm and
golden in the inevitable morning.
May 2015 · 745
I of the Dark
Mel Harcum May 2015
I will tear holes like stars in the clouds,
swallow the moon until I burn inside-out,
and become a midnight lamp guiding all
the eyes that cannot see the way home.

I remember the velvet Dark like a funeral
dress baggy around my waning waist,
the veil of which blinded me completely,
my windows turning one-by-one into walls--

trapped--yet I’d rather have been locked
because then I would have a door to kick
instead of walls simultaneously too small
and ever-expanding with fine print reading:

Do not mistake pity for love.

Paranoid assumptions connected dots,
nonexistent constellations like vines
around my ribs. The Dark permeated fear,
filled my Self to bursting before I pulled

the veil from my face, stared into violent
light that burned the lids from my eyes,
left me blindless to all the terrible truths
bearing down until my shoulders bruised.

I’ve since begun sleeping with all the lights
turned off and my curtains fully drawn.
May 2015 · 537
Hopeful, Hopeless
Mel Harcum May 2015
Midnight falls in sandbags on my chest,
piano covers of old favorites reverberating
past the old grandfather clock as it chimes:

Open your eyes.

I am sleepless on the living room carpet,
knees held against ribs once broken, healed
wrong--bones bent too close around a heart
prevented from growing the way dandelions
spring again and again from beneath mower
blades spinning, cutting the lawn once a week,

sunshine blooms stubborn as my stifling ribs.
And my persisting heart. Emily Dickinson once
claimed: “hope is the thing with feathers,” yet
my chest aches with the weight of it’s elephant
existence bearing down as the moon travels
slow across an expanse of flickering stars

too endless for small minds to comprehend--
and it’s all so much and so present that I can’t
help biting my nails at the importance of hopes,
wondering how they’d fare on a scale,
countered against infinity itself.
Apr 2015 · 2.1k
Atlantic and Pacific
Mel Harcum Apr 2015
I have two bruises on my shoulders
blue as the oceans and marbled white,
storm-foam spilling from my head
and eyes.
That’s not your responsibility--
but what else could it have been
when I knelt silent, scrubbing, palms
red as my sister’s sticky wrists, clorox
wipes balled and piled in the corner?
I am not
steel-skinned, some mechanical being
mistaken for a human with her eyelids
torn from her face, blindless to trauma
and the callouses it leaves behind.
And yet
the oceans on my shoulders blow salt
healing the wounds to smooth, pink scars,
reminders in every mirrored surface:
I am still standing.
Apr 2015 · 878
Facing East
Mel Harcum Apr 2015
Home is a red-shuttered house with over-
grown hosta plants, sold to a Chinese couple
whose translator loved our hummingbird
feeders and the way the house faced East.
We had a swimming pool, frog pond, two
pink bikes and matching helmets--mismatched
childhood memories nine years behind me--

we moved to a ranch, where I painted my room
the color soft, baby grass fighting through
wintergreen fertilizer, the kind my father
scattered over our front lawn, hoping to grow
something above the underground spring
flooding muddy, brown, saturated as we
became when my mother remembered her
locked-away childhood, my father broke
his back, my sister succumbed to self-blame,

and I cleaned up after it all. Our ranch holds
these events in its powder-blue walls, creaks
at night and wakes me from a dream repeating
nine times over--where I stand inside that red-
shuttered house, beside an eleven-year-old
me with honey hair bleached from too much
sunlight, speaking softly: you’re almost home.
Apr 2015 · 1.5k
Ice and Wine
Mel Harcum Apr 2015
I was not allowed to be angry, so I bottled and drank
my rage with wine chilled by too many ice cubes--
I suppose that’s why I shiver at inappropriate times.

My parents said: You have to be the better person.
Even as you ***** those girls, called my sister a liar,
mocked my mother and father as they drove to town,

attempted to arrest me for “demeaning of character.”
But I lost my temper, once, I felt it hot like nausea
creeping all the way to my fingertips before I

screamed and shouted and shattered two glass bulbs
hard against the tallest pine tree in our backyard.
I cut my ******* picking up all the chips,

incidentally making me rethink my plan to punch you.
Instead, I imagined myself holding my father’s pistol,
the one he showed me how to shoot from 100ft,

complete with target acquisition training--just in case
you tried running--we both know you never
took me seriously enough for that. I bought a faceless

target shaped like a man, picturing your acne-skinned
cheeks warped with that smirk you wore when I tried
telling you to *******. All this before my anger faded,

fog rising from too-hot blacktop pavement when the air
cooled, snowflakes falling as I stuck my tongue out,
swallowing each crystal like a word I could have said.
Apr 2015 · 1.1k
Mirrors (Summer, 2011)
Mel Harcum Apr 2015
Thin music played as we danced uneven
circles around tempermental light flickering,
a bonfire built lopsided in the metal bowl--

you handed me a glow-stick then broke yours,
shaking the torn end so the liquid spattered
your hair, head, shoulders, and the grass,

dew-wet around your mud-stained sneakers.
You reflected the constellations overhead--
mirrored as they were in your backyard pond

when we went night-swimming with silver
fish ******* on our toes. We spent the night
discussing first impressions and each other--

you admitted I was your kind of person
even though I thought you were weird,
too short a boy with too high a voice.

I soon learned you were a hurricane tied down,
and you convinced me I had not once been less
than spilled starlight--that’s why my skin

glowed beneath fluorescent lighting, untouched
by the sun’s aggression burning freckles,
cosmic dust dappling my nose and cheeks.

You said: “It’s always been the way of man,
born as living mirrors for nature to see itself.”
Mar 2015 · 1.8k
Green-Hands, Holding the Sun
Mel Harcum Mar 2015
All I can remember is that time in Wal-Mart
when your older sister came to me and asked:
“Is it true that Payton went to the ****** bin?”

I wonder where she heard that lie and how many
more were threaded among Honesdale locals,
weaved into their perceptions of my family--

their shoulders betrayed them when they turned
away as if we were the diseased ones rotting
inside-out--maybe we were, in a way--but at least

swallowing all this salt healed our wounds
faster than your actions would fade from memory.
I punched you the day I found out even as you

scoffed, laughed, you hadn’t ever taken me seriously.
At 17, I had learned not many people would--but
my revenge came after I moved three hours south,

when your father died of cancer, your best friend
crashed your mother’s car, your sister fled
all the way to England to escape the mistakes

eating at her shadow, and I got out of our hellish
town. You became rooted among manure, ***-
holes too deep to outgrow--I’m sure you’re choking

on worms by now. And when I finally reach
the lofty sky, I’ll hold the sun between green hands.
I’ll hide its light and warmth from you.
Mar 2015 · 1.1k
All The Crows Are Falling
Mel Harcum Mar 2015
It’s not over until all the crows
fall from holes opening in the clouds--
sunlight washing cracked concrete white.

I refuse to let your actions fade to static until
the last ca-caw echoes on parkways silent
as the attempted protests of the girls you *****.

I could count five of them by the time I left, yet
none seemed able to open their stitched lips
despite my rallies and strong-worded speeches.

Maybe that’s because you laughed at them, too,
when they threatened to file police reports.
But five years have past since then,

and the rage freezing me from the inside out
has begun to fade, slowly, thawed under
a sun growing steadily more yellow--warm,

my friends always said it would be
if only I would just give it a chance--
all the crows are falling.
Mar 2015 · 884
No. 2 Pencil
Mel Harcum Mar 2015
I constructed my sister’s portrait in three parts:
her eyes painted full color, bright with oil,
nose in colored pencil, a few shades more sallow,
and her mouth lightly smeared No. 2 pencil,

because I wasn’t sure how to form the words
for a police report never filed against you.
And sometimes I pass you on my way to town,
you still driving that ****, blue pickup
with that same old sneer on your pig-like face--

I want to scream out my window the way I did
when I dreamed you came to me years in the future,
asking how I’ve been, some lame excuse to bury
your immorality with rice-paper niceties. I remember
my throat tore and bled as if I’d swallowed broken
metal wire as I repeated over and again:
Do you know what you did?
Do you know what you caused?

I constructed my sister’s portrait with three bits of paper
ripped apart and glued crudely together again.
for Pay
Mar 2015 · 1.8k
Dear Luna,
Mel Harcum Mar 2015
I only prayed to the moon after it rose beyond
my window, the white sill a frame for waning
crescents and gibbouses--milk-drowned gods
dripping stars as they climbed skeleton branches--
some nights resting behind flood-heavy clouds.
People say the moon has a face, but
I have yet to see it sneer at my sins even as it tastes
my ocean-drop tears, evaporated into sky-bound veils,
brushed along the shadowed craters ...

The moon itself bemoaned imperfections in midnight
wind creaking branch against branch until I woke
slow from sleep--sad light staining my walls
pallid, pale as my own skin, glowing in muted
television shows left running while I dreamt
the moon spilled a star between my ribs--
dim luminescence radiating warm,
and the star, seeping through my pores, thawed
the ice I had prayed to melt in the first place.
Mar 2015 · 1.2k
Sapling Eyes, Coming Home
Mel Harcum Mar 2015
I remember the old back road I used to drive--
the one that connected my house to yours
with the abrupt boom of green mountainside, fog
clinging in patches above the evergreen

awning, and the old pine reaching far higher
than the rest--a monument to the trees
growing steady in your eyes. I haven’t
forgotten how your irises, only saplings,

drowned in the flood of ‘06 as the Delaware
crawled over the bank and into your head.
I never knew what to make of your
ripple-warped, water-stained fears crashing

rampant as the broken **** that swallowed
Church Street. They reminded me of tangled thorns,
my fingers scarred from moonlit attempts to smooth
needle-edged guilt as you repeated to me:

I’m so sorry, it’s all my fault, I should have known.
You told me how you knew I would, too, wash away--
that’s just what people did after floods.
Mar 2015 · 2.1k
The Moon in my Bed
Mel Harcum Mar 2015
Some part of you is like the moon
softly glowing beside me on my too-small bed,
and the monumental loneliness you wear as a halo
must be a trick of the eye despite keeping me awake,
hunched over a folder of unedited poems at 2:45AM.
I wonder what the moon dreams of when the sun
tucks it into bed at dawn as your eyelids flutter
and your breathing hitches for a moment
before you roll over, face the wall,
parting clouds with a small sigh.
Feb 2015 · 2.7k
The Gemini
Mel Harcum Feb 2015
She has a bruise on her left knee
reminiscent of science-book nebulas,
and the veins reaching into her palm
look like the ivy vines wrapped around
the old oak at the end of my grandmother’s

driveway. But as she presses contacts into each eye,
her pupils dilate and contract like a camera
lens shifting to accommodate for motion
blurry as her unaided vision, and her wrists
crack as if made of ill-fitted cogs chipping away--

both a tempest-tide and midnight snowfall,
yet the sum of neither.
Feb 2015 · 2.6k
Panicattack
Mel Harcum Feb 2015
My chest feels tight as a blindfold
wrapped around my eyes, and
when did it get so hot in here?
Turn down the heat, someone, please
get me a glass of water and a bucket,
my stomach is turning,
I feel like throwing up.
Count: one, two, three, four
my heart races, my breath comes
hitched as the sound of pattering rain
outside, where the wind whistles
like the ringing in my ears.

Am I the only one awake?
Feb 2015 · 1.2k
Foundations
Mel Harcum Feb 2015
I have an old farmhouse inside my chest,
wooden siding rotten in places and windows
fractured from too many winters,
the roof of which sags near the chimney--
faint smoke-clouds rising, and a light
glowing yellow inside the kitchen, a beckoning

invitation into the faded blue walls
full with portraits of four--my mother, father,
and little sister--brassy frames hung close
together above the wooden table,
nicks and scratches connecting each placemat
like dots of the coloring book page left
magnet-stuck to the refrigerator.

The countertops have grown dusty.
fruit-bowl collecting gnats and mold,
but the zinnias over the sink flourish, replaced
daily and blooming red as the teakettle
rusting on the only remaining stove-top burner,
the others broken, tossed into the garbage
beside the back door, which leads to a forest--

rib-like oaks bent and bowed
over the farmhouse, ivy vines coiled ‘round
each trunk, stretching limb to limb, weaving
webs tangled as the unruly branches from which
they hang, caressing the slumped rooftop
as if to remind the battered, tired building how,
despite everything, the hearth still smolders.
Feb 2015 · 1.1k
Some Overlook, Far Behind
Mel Harcum Feb 2015
Standing on the scenic overlook,
(the one just a few miles out)
the city lights shine brighter than stars--
multicolored luminescence burning
its image on the insides of my eyelids,

and you, who drove me here,
(some 3AM adventure created
from a series of “I-don’t-know”s)
inch closer to the precipice,
sinking knee-deep in snow before
facing me with eyes that seem
backlit by street lamps and 24-hour signs.

You told me how you so loved
the feeling of being awake and alone,
while the city slept and yet--
I felt only loneliness,
stinging silence scratching marks,
my ribs battered from working
too hard, and I could feel them
cave in beneath solidarity’s weight--

alone, though you stood beside me
speaking of snowflake matters
that melted as they touched my ears,
your words dripping into my hair,
wasted on a mind preoccupied
with retrospective tunnel-vision:

First: the morning I woke to find my mother
screaming and stomping loud,
her plate broken on the carpet and
when she left, my father’s eyes, they
turned to sea-glass as he stood blank
(gone, I suppose, in a different way),
leaving me responsible for my little sister,
who hid behind the corner.

Then: the time I found my little sister
crying into my jersey-knit sheets and
asking me to help her skip school--
she couldn’t bear to face the boys
whose uninvited touch lingered
painful on her adolescent skin
(self-inflicted cuts would appear
in the following months)--
the memory drowned with whiskey and ***.

Later: my mother’s cancer--
no, liver failure that nearly killed
everyone who waited in the white-walled
hospital, bad food sour on our tongues,
stomachs cramping hard as if we felt
the surgery deep inside our own livers--
and I with my classwork, face buried,
because no one should see me cry.

I suppose the sandbag solidarity fell upon me
in parts, dragged me from lofty childhood,
each moment a simultaneous end and beginning
to all that followed and held me far behind--
further still, though you stand only
one foot away from me, near enough to reach
(and I can imagine my hand outstretched)--
somehow the cityscape seems closer.
Feb 2015 · 627
My House is not a Home:
Mel Harcum Feb 2015
The walls howl at night--
they shriek, they
moan aloud and wake me from sleep.
My House is haunted
(it’s been haunted for years)
with all the shadows I’ve projected
just to empty my tired mind. I
tip-toe quietly,
speak softly,
because my ghosts, too, are light sleepers.
Feb 2015 · 1.4k
Dissonance
Mel Harcum Feb 2015
A ghost used to dance in my mirror--
she moved like a picture taken in motion,
though her dress remained still as the background.
But she has since stopped dancing and
grown bruises beneath marigold eyes.

Once, she whispered to me “It’s not your fault,”
but her breath reeked of rotten flowers
left too long in a molding vase--
her skin delicate as dried viscaria petals,
flaking and crumbling ever since

a man’s uninvited touch lingered there.
She stands pretty from across the room,
though her beauty is measured by the distance
I have forced between us--
five feet and counting.
trigger warning: ****.
Jan 2015 · 1.2k
The Truth About Glory
Mel Harcum Jan 2015
I am twenty-one years old and
I have saved two lives—
a girl whose throat closed despite her
and a boy who thought he had no other choice.
By all accounts, I am
a heroine,
a savior,
some divine-palmed human spread thin
among peers who are the same. The same—
who fear the dark as fully as I
and need the quiet, sometimes,
when the din of all the mouths talking at once
becomes more heavy than loud.
Be gentle, love, approach me slowly—
do not touch my shoulder when
my eyes turn to glass and
know that I hate to be hugged
because your arms will trap my fear somewhere
within me.
I suppose there’s a reason no one writes
what happened to Odysseus
and how the gods felt after their story ended.
Jan 2015 · 1.1k
Hannah
Mel Harcum Jan 2015
How alike--both born in Bergen County
among mansions and stone-lined yards,
but my childhood had been framed with lace,
yours a light bulb broken before tasting electricity.

My mother called me your “moral compass.”
My sister said I kept you from disappearing--
as if you were born from leftover ashes
smearing the stone hearth black

as the nights we’d lie awake and you’d
asked me what color to repaint your bedroom
and how to talk to that boy from your class.
You insisted I spend every night at your house.

Sometimes, we’d race our fourwheelers wild,
I always lost, far behind you--and further still
when you found that skin-and-bone crowd with
*****-stained clothes, their teeth and eyes

yellow as their cigarette-tarred fingertips
and when they stumbled near, I smelled
breath foul as the stench of a mouse
dead in my car’s engine--slowly burning out.
for Hannah
Jan 2015 · 7.8k
The Second Macbeth
Mel Harcum Jan 2015
My parents gave me a pink childhood framed with lace and luxury--
but a black stain has spread there, deep as the amount of time
I’ve spent thinking about what people are capable of, and how they can stand
hanging a mirror in every bathroom, because water cannot clean people
of the lie they told their brother or the betrayal inflicted against their friend,
some wrongs of which may never be realized, but will always remain
in the form of a new freckle on my left cheek or shadow beneath my eye.
And I am sorry, because I should have sooner heeded my mother’s words
when she told me I was the moral compass grounding you stonedust streets.

Your childhood resembled a light bulb broken before it tasted electricity,
no one taught you North from South and how different the terrain may become
when you find yourself in the mountains with only sandals on your feet.
I had been that for you, and you told me as much every weekend we spent
riding in the bed of my father’s pickup truck and shouting against wind-gusts
that threatened to carry our voices away from one another--

I have sinced learned there are many ways to **** a person.
I killed you when I stole your sense of direction like floorboards from beneath
your cracked and bleeding feet, and allowed you to fall--who knows how far--
landing in a pile of skin-biting needles and leftover sediment,
the very bottom of brown-glass bottles strewn across the floor.
Staying would have saved you, I’m sure, and I’ll never forget that I turned away
out of fear, cowardice, because I hated the sight of your skin-and-bone crowd,
friends in name but not in heart, and left you lost among them,
And you who knew no better remained, your humanity
expelled with each smoke-laden breath and then evaporating, nonextant.
Jan 2015 · 976
The Longest Winter
Mel Harcum Jan 2015
When I forgive the monsters among the trees, my petals will grow dusted pink--
These days, I have become a skeleton made of thorns,
An unbloomed rosebush stark against the gentle green.
Sometimes I see sunlight beyond the thick-leaf canopy,
Splintered by branches and trunks more mighty than I may ever grow,
And I recall the sweet and far flowered days, wet with morning dew.
The monsters came in summer heat with clouds for tails and roots hard as stone--
They trod rough on my leaves and stole my roses with grinding teeth,
And left me naked among oaken giants.
Six flooded springs have passed, though every dawn breaks cold,
A suffocating haze, thick as if the sky itself fell to weigh me down,
How slowly fog burns under the rising sun.
Jan 2015 · 477
For Ma (Fire or Ice)
Mel Harcum Jan 2015
My Ma builds fires with logs thicker than herself,
Such a skinny thing bending--
Her weight succumbed to IV drips only three weeks ago
In a white-walled room that smelled of sanitizer and alcohol--
She has felt cold ever since, wrapped up in sweaters and blankets
And sitting so close to the crackle-popping flames
That I fear she will catch fire and burn up,
Gone--I suppose--one way or the other.
Jan 2015 · 6.0k
Untitled
Mel Harcum Jan 2015
There’s a certain disharmony in the way of things,
and how it turns humans into monsters. I saw a monster turn a girl
into a woman with her clothes on the floor,

and he carved ‘liar’ on her chapped lips. I reached out when
she stood before me, holding a razor in one hand and whiskey
in the other. She had dashed lines on her wrists

and shattered glass at her feet. I feel like screaming, but my gums bleed
from a mouth full of broken metal wire.
I cannot tell you the story that sits on my shoulders like a child,
too young to understand the weight of himself.

Now my eyelids have been peeled from my face and
I cannot look away from the girl when she comes home after school
and asks me for help with her homework
because the least I can do is solve a few math problems.
This poem contains a trigger warning for self-harm and ****, which I have tagged as well.
Jan 2015 · 10.5k
Icarus
Mel Harcum Jan 2015
I think what Icarus forgot
Was that the sun was never his to touch,
Blinding and beautiful as it was.
Yet he reached anyway--
Doesn’t that remind you of something?

— The End —